For the third straight year, the battle to fill one of Florida State’s major offensive positions will once begin be the Seminole’s main focus during spring practices.
This time though, it isn’t quarterback. It’s running back.
With Dalvin Cook leaving early for the NFL draft, coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff began spring practices on Monday seeing who can replace the school’s career rushing leader.
Cook is still a big fixture around the school’s football facilities, and not just from the 20-foot mural of him that adorns the player’s lounge. Fisher said that he saw Cook working out in the weight room after he returned from the NFL scouting combine.
Fisher believes it may take more than one player to replace Cook’s contributions.
“You would always love to have that one guy, but you also know at that position that you are going to need to have a stable of guys,” Fisher said. “That’s just something we will constantly be continuing to grow in.”
Jacques Patrick, who will be a junior, is the most experienced and averaged 5.4 yards his first two seasons. He also has two 100-yard games, including 124 yards last season in a win at South Florida.
At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Patrick is more of a bruising back who doesn’t have the initial burst of quickness that Cook possessed.
Freshman Cam Akers has generated the most interest among the coaching staff. The five-star recruit, considered the nation’s top running back by many recruiting services in the Class of 2017, is an early enrollee and has already impressed Fisher with how well he has adapted on and off the field.
Senior Ryan Green and sophomore Amir Rasul also should see their share of opportunities. Rasul will not participate in contact drills the first two weeks while he rehabs from offseason shoulder surgery.
The Seminoles’ other significant position battle is at left tackle, where Roderick Johnson started 31 straight games before also opting to leave a year early. Fisher said that Ethan Firth has emerged as one of the early favorites along with redshirt freshmen Josh Ball and Jauan Williams. Firth was Johnson’s backup last season, but did not see much playing time.
An opening that won’t be that hard to fill is at defensive end, where DeMarcus Walker had 26.5 sacks the past two seasons. The Seminoles have a lot of youth and depth on the defensive line, including junior Josh Sweat, who had 4.5 sacks in last season’s final three games.
One thing Fisher will not be spending most of the spring on is preparing his team for the Sept. 2 opener in Atlanta against Alabama. He said there may be some blitz concepts that he will install but that isn’t different from other seasons.
What Fisher is more concerned about is making sure his team knows the high expectations that will exist immediately. He wasn’t happy with how his team came out the first week of spring drills last season, and the lethargic performance seemed to carry over to the first month of the regular season when the Seminoles got off to a disappointing 3-2 start before winning seven of their final eight games.
Fisher is putting an increased effort on accountability. During conditioning drills prior to spring practices, players wore garnet jerseys for giving what Fisher calls “championship effort.” They will continue to do so during spring workouts: garnet for championship effort, white for average performances and orange for underperforming.
As of last week, 90 percent of the players were wearing garnet jerseys.
“We’ve got a long way to go but we’re farther along now than we were then by far,” he said.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.