The Daily Nole

FSU Preseason Position Breakdown: Running Backs

Jeff Romance/FSU athletics

Barring injury, the running back position for Florida State will be no mystery. Junior Dalvin Cook is is fewer than 1,300 yards from breaking Warrick Dunn’s career school rushing record and is seen as a preseason Heisman Trophy contender.

At the position, the Seminoles have essentially four bodies to carry the ball. Despite Cook’s outstanding 2015 season, FSU ranked just 69th nationally in yards per game on the ground.

When it came to yards per carry however, the Seminoles ranked 16th. FSU was also 38th in rushing touchdowns with 27.

1. The Name to Know: Dalvin Cook
As a sophomore in 2015, Dalvin Cook enjoyed the greatest season ever for a Florida State running back. Cook broke Warrick Dunn’s single-season record by more than 400 yards and is expected to break his career record in one season fewer than Dunn this upcoming season.

Cook accounted for 1,691 yards on the ground last season and 20 total touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Cook is the definition of a complete back. Cook can run between the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield and shows amazing burst when trying to outrun defenders. Cook’s outstanding year came despite playing most of the year with an injured hamstring.

2. Burning Question: Can FSU Reduce the Burden on Cook?
Dalvin Cook not only rushed for the most yardage in FSU history last season, but he did it on the second most carries in school-history as well with 229. As mentioned before, Cook battled a hamstring injury in 2015 and most would say that Cook was worked too hard. The question heading into 2016 is whether either Jacques Patrick or Ryan Green can become a legitimate No. 2 back for Cook to help keep him healthy.

Patrick was a highly-touted 5-star prospect out of Orlando and is seen largely as a power back. As a freshman however, Patrick didn’t always run with the force that head coach Jimbo Fisher and company would have hoped.

Ryan Green is another name that could be in the backfield mix in 2016. Green moved from the backfield to the secondary last spring and was pushing Marquez White for a starting spot opposite All-American Jalen Ramsey. Green moved back to tailback this spring and impressed with the way he was able to run with deceptive power and with the way he was able to catch the ball out of the backfield. Johnathan Vickers, a junior, is another guy who could see time. Who was supposed to be the most veteran of FSU running backs, Mario Pender, was dismissed this offseason for domestic violence.

3. Put Your Future Stock In: Jacques Patrick
It’s unknown what Jacques Patrick will be able to do as a sophomore in 2016, but there’s no doubt that Patrick has the ability to become one of the ACC’s best backs at some point during his FSU career. Patrick carried the ball just 63 times last season, but shined in his only start.

With Cook injured against Syracuse last season, Patrick toted the rock 24 times for 162 yards and three scores in a 45-21 FSU victory. At best, Patrick will play second fiddle to Cook in 2016, but don’t at some point in his career, he should be a 1,000-yard back.

4. Other Names to Know: Freddie Stevenson, Johnathan Vickers, Amir Rasul
Freddie Stevenson, a high school linebacker, will be in his third season at FSU’s starting fullback. Stevenson does not put up much statistically, but has been reliable as a blocking back. Johnathan Vickers is the dark horse for FSU in the backfield. Vickers finished with 150 yards from scrimmage and two total touchdowns last season.

Incoming running back Amir Rasul is seen mostly as a speed back by those who watched the South Florida product and will likely redshirt this season. Rasul however, can become a change-of-pace back at some point during his time in Tallahassee. Whether or not he ever becomes an every-down back remains to be seen.

5. Food for Thought
Dalvin Cook is seen as one among a handful of backs with Heisman Trophy aspirations this season, joining Leonard Fournette of LSU, Oregon’s Royce Freeman and last season’s runner-up for the award, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey. Among those however, Cook had the highest yards per carry average a season ago. Only Fournette had more rushing touchdowns with 22 as opposed to Cook’s 19.

Cook sits exactly 1,260 yards away from tying Dunn’s career rushing record, but that’s not the only record in sight for the junior in 2016. Cook needs 17 touchdowns to break Greg Allen’s career record at FSU.

Throughout the first two years of Cook’s career, the FSU star seems to do his best work against the Seminoles’ biggest rivals. In four totals games against Miami and Florida, Cook has 79 carries for 541 yards and seven total touchdowns. If there is one area where Cook has left something to be desired, it’s in bowls. Three of Cook’s five career lost fumbles have come in two bowl appearances.

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