No. 8 Seminoles’ RBs Take Pressure Off Young QB

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida State demonstrated it has a lot more offense than just freshman quarterback Jameis Winston.

The Seminoles have an impressive running game featuring a trio of backs: Devonta Freeman, James Wilder, Jr. and Karlos Williams.

Eighth-ranked Florida State racked up 377 rushing yards in a 62-7 victory against Nevadaon Saturday. The Seminoles (2-0) surpassed the 300-yard mark on the ground just once in 2012 with 385 against Wake Forest on Sept. 15.

Seminoles safety Tyler Hunter said Monday that the backs just wore down Nevada.

“First it was Wilder and Devonta,” Hunter said. “Wilder would just wear them down and you’d put Freeman in and he’d just break a big one. Now you have two big backs and you’ve still got Freeman. Karlos may be faster than all of them. … It’s really a big up.

“I know it has to stress the defense. Then they can play-action and we’ve still got great receivers. So we can go deep anytime just off the play-action.”

If the trio can continue to be that productive, the will make life easier for Winston. The quarterback has quickly become the focal point of opponents after completing 40 of 45 passes for 570 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. He has more touchdowns than incomplete passes through eight quarters.

The 6-foot-1, 223-pound Williams was the unexpected treat last weekend.

The one-time safety moved to running back for the first time during his collegiate career after the season-opening win against Pittsburgh. The junior previously resisted coach Jimbo Fisher’s suggestion to move to the offensive side of the ball. Wilder and Freeman were both preseason Doak Walker Award candidates. Their abilities were well-known.

No one predicted Williams would take a toss sweep in the third quarter and sprint around the right end for a 65-yard touchdown on his first career carry.

“I believe it causes a lot of issues” for a defense, Williams said. “Even Ryan Green is a very shifty guy. … We call ourselves the four-headed monster. There’s a lot of talent in that backfield.

“Our quarterbacks are young, so we really do have to take care of them. We have to make sure we’re making the right calls and running the right lanes and making sure we’re taking care of the football.”

Freeman finished with 109 rushing yards and a touchdown. Williams added 110 yards and one score. Wilder had 45 yards and a touchdown.

Fisher joked about his fortune-telling prowess after the game and expounded on Williams during his press conference Monday.

“I’ve wanted to do it for a long time,” Fisher said about the position switch. “I think it’s his most natural position. It wasn’t motivation. I just think it’s his best position, always have. I just think he’s more natural at that position than at any other thing.

“He’s very dynamic with the ball in his hands. This has nothing to do with: We need a running back. I think he was doing well on defense. I just think it’s the most natural position for him. I really do. I’ve always thought that.”

The offense gives defenses another look when the 6-2, 229-pound Wilder and Freeman, 5-9, 203 pounds, share the backfield. Wilder has nicknamed the formation “Wild & Free” when he and Freeman line up behind Winston.

Wilder threw the key block during Freeman’s 60-yard run on the first snap of the second half. The duo is on the verge of becoming FSU’s first pair of career 1000-yard rushers on the same roster since 2005.

“You can do a lot of things. Run it both ways, they can catch it. Lot of experience. Lot of size,” Fisher said.

Wilder said the goal is for every back to average 6.5 yards per carry, which was easily accomplished after the trio broke off runs of 60 yards, 65 yards and 24 yards in Florida State’s first five offensive snaps of the second half.

The Seminoles are 18th in the nation among in the nation among FBS schools, averaging 266.5 yards rushing per game. That is likely to rise against FCS program Bethune-Cookman (3-0) this weekend.

“We don’t have certain backs for certain plays. We can do everything,” Wilder said. “That makes it harder for defenses. … We have an open playbook for every situation. It keeps us with fresh legs. Around the third quarter, the defense is tired and sluggish.”