As if Mondays weren’t bad enough already, you may very well be waking up on this one to find out that starting Florida State running back Jacques Patrick looks to be out for a significant part of what remains of the 2017 Seminole campaign, a story we broke here on Tomahawk Nation on Sunday night. Jimbo Fisher confirmed the report Monday morning, saying Patrick was “most likely” out for the year.
Of course, news of Patrick’s knee injury is toughest for No. 9 himself. A 6’3, 231-pound junior from Orlando, Patrick was written off by many as a mere placeholder at the RB position until top running-back recruit Cam Akers usurped his position at some point in the season. And, full disclosure, I was one of the many writers who shared in that opinion.
But amid a 2017 season defined by disappointment, Patrick has been a revelation, running hard and smart, and truly earning every carry. He’s been one of the few bright spots on the squad this year. But just as the lights have dimmed on the prospects of a decent FSU ’17, so have they now on Patrick’s season.
Which prompts the question: what now for the 2-4 ’Noles? The easiest conclusion is one rather foregone, and that’s a larger role for Akers. The electric 5’11, 213-pound frosh from Clinton, MS has already out-carried Patrick 87-74, although Patrick’s average YPC was better, at 5.69 to 5.23. But this isn’t a bad thing, with regard to cohesion— Akers has received ample playing time in big games, so while the Seminoles will be losing a formidable one-two punch, they’re basically just elevating a co-starter into that role exclusively.
Patrick, however, did have the benefit of experience with regard to catching passes and pass protection— and for all that’s made of the intricacies of Jimbo Fisher’s offense on quarterbacks and receivers, picking up blitzes and understanding the timing of whom, when, and how to chip block for RBs are an acquired skill set as well.
How will FSU help Akers with this? I think we’ve already seen the answer, especially in the Seminoles’ last game, vs. Louisville. Against the Cardinals, Florida State went to two-TE sets on numerous occasions, and that could very well be a trend that continues. Of course, if the top tight ends, Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders, are to get that much more burn, depth there should also be tested, so we may just see how ready true freshman TE Tre McKitty, listed third on the most recent depth chart, is for some action.
But concerning depth, the real question moving forward focuses on the running back corps itself, a group Patrick has led admirably. On the latest FSU depth chart, Patrick was listed as the clear RB1, followed by three players tied in with the infamous “OR” for the backup spot: Akers, redshirt-senior Ryan Green, and speedy-sophomore Amir Rasul. As mentioned earlier, the top spot is obviously Akers’, as it should be.
As far as the other RBs go, let’s not discount more playing time for redshirt-junior fullback Johnathan Vickers, who’s seen ample PT thus far. But what Vickers has not seen yet this year is a single carry. So while he may be included in sets as a blocker, this staff has shown zero confidence in him as a ball carrier.
That leaves Green, Rasul, and true freshmen Khalan Laborn and Zaquandre White as options. Fisher rarely redshirts skill position players, but with regard to the latter pair, is he really ready to burn a year of eligibility on either one in a what has basically become a lost season?
Rasul has the third most RB carries on the team thus far this year (even if they only number seven), but he’s shown promise in the limited time he’s had to showcase his talents. If he moves to the second featured-back position, perhaps Green could get some work spelling him and Akers from time to time.
Truth be told, that could make for a nice silver lining in a season already beset by dark, foreboding clouds. Green grew up a Seminoles fan, has switched positions twice to fill areas of need for the ’Noles, and earned good grades during his time in Tallahassee. Maybe giving him a bit of run could provide some green fields under the gray skies that have hung over this ever-darkening FSU season.