Florida State enters the 2018 season with many questions.
Who will start at quarterback? Can the offensive line find reliable starters? Which linebacker will play next to Dontavious Jackson?
One position where FSU has no questions is running back.
Sophomore Cam Akers returns after breaking Dalvin Cook’s freshman rushing record. Jacques Patrick elected to skip the NFL Draft for one more year in Tallahassee. Meanwhile, young players like Khalan Laborn and Anthony Grant are eager to prove their worth as well.
In short, this could be the best running back group Florida State has boasted in the modern era.
It starts with Akers, the five-star recruit who was the gem of the Seminoles’ 2017 recruiting class. Despite quarterback issues and offensive line inconsistencies, Akers managed to rush for 1,025 yards and seven touchdowns. He recorded his first 100-yard performance against Miami and ended the season with an impressive 5.3 yards per carry.
Listed at 5-11, 210-pounds, Akers has the bulk to carry the football 20+ times a game while still having the breakaway speed to outrun the defense. While Willie Taggart will spread the ball around in his Gulf Coast Offense, expect Akers to be the primary workhorse for Florida State in 2018.
Recent Heisman odds also have Akers at 28/1 to win the award. While the sophomore running back would have to put up incredible numbers to claim the Heisman, it’s a positive sign that more than just the Florida State faithful have high expectations for Akers.
Cam Akers = EXPLOSIVE@InTheBleachers gives his best NFL comparison for the @FSUFootball RB. #CampusInsiders pic.twitter.com/GWX30LcWbv— Stadium (@WatchStadium) August 3, 2018
But while Akers received all the praise last season, Patrick quietly had a breakout year of his own. Over the course of his career, Patrick has rushed for 1,412 yards and 16 touchdowns, despite splitting time with Akers and Cook.
At 6-3, 235-pounds, Patrick is the thunder to Akers’ lightning. He doesn’t possess elite top-end speed, but is tough enough to pick up the hard yards in short-yardage situations. Patrick is also a great receiving back, recording 21 catches for 171 yards last season.
.@FSUFootball RB @jacques_patrick had a BIG day against Wake Forest, racking up 120 rushing yards and a touchdown. #Noles pic.twitter.com/WqyLDh4AAb— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) October 1, 2017
Florida State has recruited running backs as well as any school in the country, and it shows when looking at the depth chart.
Former five-star recruit Khalan Laborn redshirted last season, but burst onto the scene with a 13 carry, 140-yard performance in the spring game. He was eager to prove himself after feeling slighted by the previous coaching staff.
“It was frustrating,” Laborn told Seminoles.com. “I don’t really talk about the past, but it was really frustrating, and I’m just glad we got a new coaching staff in to show what all of us can do.”
If he can carry over that momentum into the fall, Florida State will have a three-headed monster at running back that very few schools could compete with.
Junior Amir Rasul is a track star who is capable of taking it to the house on any given carry. With FSU utilizing the jet sweep under Taggart, look for Rasul to get some of these “carries”. If he can hit the edge with good blocking, he’s gone.
Florida State only signed one running back in its latest class: three-star Anthony Grant. Although it’s tough to see a role for him emerging in 2018, the Seminoles will need to replace Patrick next year and likely Akers the following. The need always arises for more backs. And Grant’s earned some positive reviews in Fall camp.
Expect to see Taggart pound the rock early and often. With the troika of Akers, Patrick and Laborn, Florida State should field one of the best running back rotations in 2018. Regardless of who plays quarterback, they will have a star-studded group of running backs around them.