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Beyond Dalvin Cook: Florida State spring football running backs preview

Florida State spring practice begins on March 18 with the spring game taking place on April 11. Follow all of Tomahawk Nation's coverage here.

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Florida State lost half of its starters off the 2014 team and almost all of its elite players. But one spot where it returns a bona fide superstar is at running back with Dalvin Cook. Cook became the starter down the stretch, and behind a tremendous blocking offensive line (almost all of which is gone) rushed for 1008 yards on 170 carries and added 203 yards receiving on 22 catches. He added eight scores as well, and had a knack for big plays, with 20 percent of his carries going for double digits. He's arguably the best back in the league and one of the best in the country.

Cook will be asked to carry an even bigger load come 2015, and his health will be paramount to the team's success. During the spring, he'll be asked to keep doing his thing, work on becoming a better pass protector, and importantly, work on his carrying technique. Cook had a number of costly fumbles in 2014, and while fumble recovery is random, holding on to the football will be a focus of the spring.

Still, questions remain for this unit.

Will Mario Pender secure the No. 2 spot?

Now that Ryan Green has moved positions to cornerback, it would seem that Mario Pender has the inside track to be the No. 2 running back. Pender ran for 206 yards on 41 carries in 2014, and looked amazing in a game against Syracuse before injuring his ankle. After the injury and seeing Dalvin Cook put the starting job in a stranglehold, Pender battled discouragement, but is in line for a lot of playing time this season if his mind is in the right place and he can stay healthy. Pender is very quick and would be a great change-of-pace back if the pace for the Seminoles wasn't set by one Dalvin Cook.

Can Jacques Patrick replace Karlos Williams' production in short yardage and goal line situations?

Florida State was tremendous in short yardage and goal line situations (the Oregon game excepted) thanks in large part to Karlos Williams, who is now off to the NFL. Out comes 6'1, 230, and in is 6'1, 230-pounder Jacques Patrick, a four-star recruit who enrolled for the spring semester. Patrick might not run with quite the same anger as Williams, and might not have his speed, but he does have good balance and has the size that profiles as a back capable of getting the job done in short yardage.

And Patrick will try to show that he can handle more, even during his first year. Patrick catches the football pretty well and he undoubtedly comes in wanting to challenge Mario Pender for more carries.

How good can Freddie Stevenson be?

The junior fullback had tough shoes to fill after Lonnie Pryor and Chad Abram manned the role for four seasons. And while Stevenson wasn't terrible, he also wasn't quite up to the level of the previous two lead blockers. Given Florida State's quarterback situation, the former linebacker will be counted on more than ever to clear lanes for the run game. He may also show that he can catch the football more.

What will be Jonathan Vickers role?

Sophomore back Jonathan Vickers played almost exclusively special teams in 2014 and it is hard to see him playing much offense in 2015 without injury, but perhaps his role (how much running back v. fullback) could be clarified.