With Dalvin Cook out against Syracuse, Florida State had to turn to former five-star running back recruit Jacques Patrick, a freshman.
Credit Jimbo Fisher for knowing his personnel and calling plays to fit the young talent. At 6'2 and 235 pounds, Patrick brings a lot to the table. But like many bigger backs, he's a momentum runner, meaning that it takes him a while to get to top speed. Getting slowed down or hit in the backfield is tougher for Patrick to overcome than backs with better acceleration. But when Patrick is clean and able to build up to top speed, he is a load to bring down.
"As the game went on, he ran with more confidence and power," Jimbo Fisher said.
To that end, Jimbo Fisher smartly used the big man several times on sweeps to the outside, allowing him to gain momentum. And the offensive line opened up huge holes on many of the inside runs, allowing Patrick to hit the line at full speed and not have to move laterally too much. Fisher, of course, had the chance to be around a very similar talent 20 years ago when he was at Auburn as his quarterbacks were handing the ball to Stephen Davis, who twice made the All-SEC team and played a decade in the NFL. If Patrick can have the career that Davis did, FSU fans will be elated.
While Patrick has obvious talent, it was the small things the freshman did that were so impressive. Patrick was good in pass protection against a Syracuse defense that loves to blitz. And he showed the same hands that recruiting observers saw over the year at camps and combines, securely catching six passes and looking like a natural. Patrick also had the presence of mind to grab a pass that was initially ruled a lateral, preventing Syracuse from recovering (play was changed to an incomplete after review). All told, Patrick finished with 30 touches and 224 yards. Having a freshman back do those little things at a competent level is a really great development for FSU's offense.
The next step for Patrick will be to show that he can be effective running between the tackles when better defenses make the running lanes smaller. But the freshman showed some flashes there, too, keeping the legs churning later in the game and moving the pile. And he showed good vision on a few runs. Now Florida State's coaches have an option they are more likely to trust when Dalvin Cook needs a rest.