This is the ninth in a series of articles counting down the most important players for Florida State in 2012. There are 49 days until FSU football, and that's how many are left on the list. That means no off days. Oh, and these are not in any specific order.
Devonta Freeman | 5'8, 200 | Soph | Running Back
Enrolled early in January 2011...considered one of the most versatile runners in the country, effectively running between the tackles and capable of using his 4.5 40-yard dash speed to turn the corner...a four-star prospect by both Rivals.com and Scout.com...ranked the No. 10 running back and the No. 108 overall player in the nation by Rivals.com and the No. 9 running back by Scout.com...no. 15 running back by ESPN...rated as the No. 5 running back and the No. 52 overall player in the nation by 247Sports...helped lead Miami Central to the 2010 Class 6A state title and was named the MVP after gaining 308 yards on 36 carries - falling just 20 yards shy of a state championship game record...as a senior ran for Miami-Dade County-leading 2,208 yards and 26 touchdowns...recorded 663 rushing yards and six touchdowns in the final two games of the state playoffs...rushed for 545 yards and two touchdowns as a junior back-up to Kentucky signee Brandon Gainer...first Team All-Dade by The Miami Herald...member of the Times-Union's Florida Super 75 where he was rated as the No. 4 running back...No. 24 on the SuperPrep Elite Top 50 and No. 4 on the SuperPrep Florida 110. -- Seminoles.com Bio
The Countdown57: Cason Beatty, Punter
56: Terrence Brooks, Safety
55: Dan Hicks, Tight Ends
54: Clint Trickett, Quarterback
53: Rashad Greene, Receiver
52: Austin Barron, Center
51: Everett Dawkins, Defensive Tackle
50: Tank Carradine, Defensive End
49: Devonta Freeman, Running Back
Devonta Freeman saw his popularity increase literally every day since he broke out at Florida State's summer camp in the summer of 2010. He committed to Florida State in late June and has been a fan favorite ever since.
Freeman progressed from a relatively unknown high school junior to heralded four star recruit in the span of about eight months. Thanks to extremely proactive recruiting and an early offer, the Noles held on to his commitment, got him enrolled early and found their 2011 rushing leader with 120 carries, 4.94 ypc, and 8 TDs. 51.2% of Devonta's carries resulted in successful plays, which would've been second best (52.9%) on the potent 2010 FSU rushing attack. He was the only back to record a 100 yard performance--twice, against Duke and Maryland--but really seemed to hit his stride in a 12 carry, 62 yard performance at Boston College. His reads and decisive cuts were better than I saw from any of the backs, all year. Freeman was not particularly impressive as an open field runner. Nobody expects every run to go the distance, but he let too many opportunities for extra yards get away. This was common to all the backs in 2011 and amplified, even exaggerated, blocking breakdowns. All the backs ran hard, but appeared to be out of control at times. Getting through the line untouched at top speed only to stumble over their own feet or missing an opportunity to evade a less athletic linebacker in open space occurred far too frequently. He proved to be a very good one cut back. Now he needs to get better at making the second cut and take advantage of extra yards when they're there.
Freeman clearly took over the number one spot after Thompson went down as 99 of his 120 carries occurred after the injury. The top spot is his to lose this spring and Thompson (depending on health) is probably the only legitimate challenger.
Freeman missed spring football with a back injury. FSU people spun it as a precautionary measure, but back injuries are rarely simple and are always a cause for concern. Even with a clean bill o' health, Freeman still won't have been hit for eight months and that first contact will be a moment in which everyone holds their collective breath.
Freeman's main traits remain his toughness, balance and acceleration. He also seemed to do the little things (ahem, pass blocking) quite well for a freshman, probably thanks to him enrolling early.
If healthy, Freeman has a real shot to be the No. 1 guy for the 'Noles. And if that happens, his production will increase as a result of getting more carries. Freeman also stands a good chance to catch more balls in 2012.