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FSU running backs producing, but struggling to finish in post-Cook era

Not an indictment of the running backs’ performance, but something has to change.

Florida State v Wake Forest Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Florida State’s running back corps has done well to replace the greatest running back in program history early this season, but something is still missing.

Jacques Patrick, Cam Akers, and, on occasion, Amir Rasul, have amassed 524 rushing yards in FSU’s first four games on 102 carries, an average of 5.14 yards per carry.

Perhaps more promising is the fact that the Seminoles have seen an increase in their rush yards in each game to date. Starting with only 40 yards against Alabama, that number shot up to 104 against NC State, 140 at Wake Forest and, finally, 203 yards on the ground against Miami.

Still, one aspect of FSU’s running back play leaves something to be desired.

They aren’t scoring touchdowns.

Through four games, FSU has totaled exactly one rushing touchdown, a one-yard carry by Patrick against Wake Forest. If that pace continues, it would be historically bad by FSU under Jimbo Fisher standards.

In Fisher’s first seven years as head coach, FSU has never rushed for less than 20 touchdowns and has only failed to reach 27 rushing touchdowns once.

This lack of finishing carries in the end zone also plays a role in FSU’s red-zone issues, which have seen the Seminoles score touchdowns in only 33% of their red-zone possessions, tied for 125th in the FBS.

What goes into this sudden dropoff in scoring from the backfield? For one, FSU may have an extremely talented group of running backs, but none of them have shown what set their predecessor, Dalvin Cook, apart.

Cook had a knack for not just creating a big run at the line of scrimmage with his elite vision and quickness, but finishing it in the end zone thanks to his vision, top-notch speed, and ability to make defenders miss.

That’s what is missing among this year’s running backs: that deadly combination so rarely found in a single back.

Patrick’s impressive frame helps him push for extra yards, but has also allowed him to be chased down in the open field on a few occasions this season. Akers is still developing his vision and decision making in his first year of college football. Rasul, the speedster of the group, has only had four carries this season and seems to be on the outside looking in.

This isn’t to say that FSU has been unable to break off lengthy runs. Through four games, the Seminoles have rattled off five carries of 30+ yards, tied for 31st in the FBS with some teams that have played as many as two games more than FSU has.

This is made more impressive when realizing that the Seminoles have faced three top-tier defenses in Bama, Miami, and NC State, as well as a defense that looks better than expected in Wake Forest.

Unfortunately for FSU, that doesn’t get any easier this weekend, as Duke is holding opponents to 2.85 yards per carry, 9th in the FBS, and has allowed just five rushing touchdowns in six games.