March 12, 2014
Is it possible that despite losing Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr. a year early to the NFL Draft, entering spring practices the Seminoles are more dangerous at running back?
Freeman became the first 1,000-yards rusher at FSU since Warrick Dunn in 1996 last season and Wilder was a pile-moving, defender-dragging second option on the ground that created quite one-two FSU punch. But with both ‘backs no longer on the roster, the excitement surrounding the ‘Noles’ returning rushers is still high.
Just look at the game-breaking talent returning.
After spending two full seasons and the first game of the 2013 seasons as a reserve safety, Karlos Williams’ long talked-about move to running back was met with immediate intrigue early last year. With his size and speed combination, Williams provided a new dynamic in a backfield that at the time featured players like Freeman and Wilder, who are not known for their "second gear."
Turns out, the excitement about Wililams’ move was justified. On his first-career carry, he sped 65 yards for a touchdown and never looked back. By the end of the season he was essentially FSU’s No. 2 running back and finished with 730 yards on just 91 carries for a ridiculous 8.0 yards-per-carry average while adding 11 touchdowns. Williams accomplished all of that while still learning the nuances of the position.
Williams' touchdown every 8.3 rushes was the most frequent of any player at any school in the country a season ago. Imagine what he can do with a full off-season of preparation and practice.
Spring ball will give Williams the chance to show what he can do with more carries, thus creating an opportunity to solidify himself as the team’s feature tailback on a roster that features several stellar — but unproven — youngsters.
Ryan Green is the only other scholarship running back on the team with any playing experience. As a true freshman in 2013, Green carried the football 33 times and racked up 163 yards and one score as the team’s fourth option in the backfield.
Mario Pender is entering his third spring in Tallahassee but the redshirt sophomore has yet to play a game. Pender was academically ineligible for what would have been his redshirt freshman campaign but worked hard enough in the classroom to not only rejoin the team for bowl practices but to also earn academic honors for the fall 2013 semester.
Like Green, Pender is a shifty ‘back with great speed. There are high hopes for both sophomores and the they’ll be given every chance to prove their worth this spring alongside Williams.
Joining the trio of returning players is newcomer Dalvin Cook, who enrolled in classes in January as a five-star prospect. Cook is an electrifying player with elite speed and all-around ability with the football in his hands. Cook figures to be a factor as a true freshman and being on campus for spring practices increases the likelihood of his presence in Jimbo Fisher’s offense in 2014.
At fullback, the Seminoles lost Chad Abram to graduation so Freddie Stevenson figures to be the top player in that role when practices begin. Stevenson enrolled at FSU last spring and spent the early part of his career as a linebacker before making the move to offense in fall camp. Playing behind Abram on the champion ‘Noles, Stevenson carried eight times for 33 yards and a score.
2014 Seminoles.com Spring-Practice Preview Series: