FSU using trio of running backs to put up big gains
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Although Florida State does not have a back with the numbers put up by Auburn’s Tre Mason, a trio of Seminoles combined for nearly 2,200 yards and 32 touchdowns while complementing Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston this season.
Mason finished seventh nationally with 1,621 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry for the second-ranked Tigers (12-1), who play No. 1 Florida State on Jan. 6 in the BCS championship game.
Florida State’s Devonta Freeman is 57 yards shy of becoming the first Seminoles back since Warrick Dunn 17 years ago to reach 1,000 yards. Dunn did it three straight seasons.
Freeman and two other juniors, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams, are averaging a combined 6.7 yards per carry. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound WiIliams, who was converted from safety early in the season, averages 8.2 yards a carry.
"We can run the football," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said after a two-hour practice Friday. "That’s one of the things that makes you complete. It’s going to be critical to be able to run the ball."
Florida State (13-0) is an 8 1/2 point favorite to complete the second unbeaten season in school history against second-ranked Auburn (12-1).
Fisher said his team came through its brief holiday break in good shape physically and he expects to be at full strength for the title game.
"We’ll start cranking hard now," Fisher said. "We’ll get back in the groove."
The Seminoles have three more practices in Tallahassee before leaving for the West Coast on Tuesday.
While Winston needs 180 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to complete a 4,000-yard, 40-touchdown freshman campaign, the Seminole backs will continue to bang away in comparative anonymity.
"Yes they’ve been overlooked," said wide receiver Kenny Shaw, one of three Florida State receivers who could reach 1,000 yards in receptions. "And they’re all great runners."
The Seminoles averaged 207.4 yards a game on the ground compared to Auburn’s 327.6, which led the nation.
Fullback Chad Abram, also a converted safety, seldom got his hands on the ball but is credited with not only protecting Winston as well as clearing the way for many big gains by his more heralded teammates.
"He’s got a lot of responsibility," Freeman said. "Our fullback has a lot of responsibility. It takes an unselfish guy … making everybody else look good."
Williams said Friday he was too mature to accept Fisher’s suggestion his freshman year that he might want to make the move to offense.
"It’s worked out for me," Williams said. "I like running into people, make contact. I try to make sure I cause as much punishment as possible running the ball."
Wilder, who many saw as a linebacker coming out of high school, is similar in size to Williams albeit not as fast while the 5-8, 200-pound Freeman is more of the stereotypical tailback whose strength belies his size.
None object to sharing the workload.
"You have three backs who are going to produce every time they carry the ball," Williams said. "We just keep a positive attitude and make each other better every day."
And that is an attitude that Fisher said has characterized the team’s success in 2013.
"This team is playing as any well as any I’ve coached consistently over a long period of time," Fisher said.