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Florida State football preview: Running backs

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An exciting trio of running backs joins Florida State football.

NCAA Football: Florida State Media Day Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Goodbye Dalvin Cook, hello two of the top running backs of the 2017 recruiting class. Even though Florida State already had a solid lineup at running back heading into the 2017 season, Jimbo Fisher and his staff recruited two five-star running backs and another high four-star to join them, creating a powerful position group.

Already named the starter for the 2017 season, Florida State junior Jacques Patrick will look to carry over the success that he had during 2016 in a part time role. The powerful running back from Orlando, Fla. averaged 5.7 yards per carry last season, totaling 350 yards and four touchdowns. Against Syracuse in 2015, Patrick ran for a career high 162 yards on 24 carries. He eclipsed 100 yards for the second time against USF in 2016, running for 124 yards on 20 carries. Over his career, the 6’3 231 lb. playmaker has run for 664 yards on 124 carries with nine touchdowns. Even with the plethora of new talent on the team, Patrick should get a majority of the carries and if all goes well, could become a mentor for those new young additions.

Before we begin talking about the three-headed monster of the position group, sophomore running back Amir Rasul has impressed many during practices and camp and should earn a decent amount of carries this upcoming season. The quick, agile 5’11 196 lb. back from Miami, Fla. played special teams in seven of FSU’s games last season and recorded 46 rushing yards on six carries for the season — all vs. Charleston Southern. He and Patrick should make for a nice tandem backfield with Rasul being used as a receiving back.

Redshirt senior Ryan Green will get limited carries much as the previous years. In his career, the 5’10 204 lb. back from St. Petersburg, Fla. has rushed 50 times for 269 yards. 11 of those rushes came in 2016.

Now to introduce Florida State’s newest additions.

Cam Akers, the nation’s No. 2 overall player and No. 1 running back of the 2017 recruiting class, brings his talents to Tallahassee. Even though he has yet to play a snap in college football, the hype surrounded by the young Clinton, Miss. product is well warranted. Standing in at 5’11 213 lbs., Akers has a majestic combination of strength and speed which he knows how to control as shown through his high school film. However, Akers did more than run in high school, starting at quarterback for state champions Clinton High School. In his senior year alone, the incoming freshman ran for 2,105 yards on 242 carries and 34 touchdowns — and that was just on the ground. Through the air, Akers added another 31 touchdowns and threw for 3,128 yards. In his four year high school career, Akers was responsible for 149 total touchdowns, 8,140 passing yards and 5,103 rushing yards (7.29 YPC).

For how much Akers will play, that will depend on the health and success of Patrick and Rasul. In 2014, Dalvin Cook didn’t even have a rush in his first game at Florida State and it wasn’t until game six vs. Syracuse when he made his first start. Additionally, Cook only had to pass Karlos Williams to supplement that role. Akers would have to pass two men above him. He should earn an adequate amount of rushes, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t hit the field much until the second half of the season.

Next up is 2017 five-star, No. 1 all-purpose running back in the nation, Khalan Laborn from Virginia Beach, Va. With the signing of the 5’10 199 lb. versatile athlete, Florida State has signed the No. 1 overall player in Virginia for three years straight (Sweat in ‘15, Taylor in ‘16). In his senior year of high school, Laborn rushed for 1,485 yards on 165 carries with 18 touchdowns. He had seven games in which he rushed for over 100 yards. While those stats are impressive, it was his junior year when the FSU freshman broke out. He ran for 2,228 yards on 206 carries (10.8 YPC) and 32 touchdowns and for 100+ yards in 11 of 13 games that season. Playing time for him in 2017 may be limited to late in games in which Florida State has a comfortable lead, a la Delaware State and Southern Miss.

The last, but by no means least impactful, freshman to join FSU is Zaquandre White. The quick, 6’0 199 lb. North Ft. Myers, Fla. product was the No. 7 running back in the country and No. 141 overall in 247’s 2017 composite rankings. White didn’t play much late in high school, appearing in 14 games over last two years, but made a big impact nevertheless. In fact, in a single game vs. Cape Coral, White rushed for 372 yards and scored five times. He had 1,542 total rushing yards in high school over 187 carries. His 40-yard time of 4.51 was clocked while participating in The Opening in the middle of his senior year. White’s usage in 2017 will more than likely compare to Laborn’s, late in games with a comfortable lead.

At fullback, Johnathan Vickers will get the starting nod. The 6’1 228 lb. redshirt junior from Quincy, Fla. played in four games during the 2016 campaign before missing the remainder of the season due to a concussion. In his career, Vickers has played in 26 games, 13 of those purely on special teams, and brings even more experience to a veteran heavy Florida State offense.

Rounding out the list is sophomore RB Gabe Nabers who brings plenty of potential to fullback once Vickers departs. Nabers, standing in at 6’3 244 lbs., has the size and gained some experience in 2016, appearing in three games.