In focus: Cook knows he's big key to Florida State's season
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Dalvin Cook was one of the college football's most explosive players last season. But as the Florida State running back prepares for the upcoming season, he wants to be just as potent without the ball.
''The game plan is going to come in, they are going to want to stop Dalvin,'' Cook said. ''I can still influence the defense and draw more 1-on-1 coverages if I have the ball or not. I have to be more fluid and move around more.''
When the fourth-ranked Seminoles face No. 11 Mississippi in the Sept. 5 opener in Orlando, all eyes will be on the 5-foot-11, 213-pound junior, who has garnered some Heisman talk. Last season Cook set FSU single-season records for rushing (1,691) and all-purpose yards (1,935).
There are three other stats though which stand out about Cook. His 7.9 yards per carry and his 22 carries of 20-yards or more led Power Five conference running backs. The carries were a bigger eye opener.
Cook's 229 carries were the second-most by a running back in a Jimbo Fisher offense (LSU's LaBrandon Toefield had 230 in 2001) and marked the first time since Greg Allen in 1983 that a Florida State back had 200 carries or more in a season.
''He's baby sweetness. . Not comparing him to Walter Payton. He has that juice back there in the backfield,'' fullback Freddie Stevenson said. ''He has crazy vision. He might see some things that everybody else might not see. You just know with him behind you, get on your man and he'll do the rest.''
While some may be amazed that Cook had three touchdown runs of 74 yards or more last season, it is what he did in the first 10 yards that made those big plays. On his 94-yard touchdown against Wake Forest, Cook broke two tackles with a cut at the FSU 13 before being gone.
''I am amazed about some of the cuts I make. I'm confident when I do. I don't think twice about it,'' Cook said. ''When I make my reads I go with my first instinct and go with it. You see some of the looks on these fans faces it will tell it all.''
Keeping Cook healthy will be a major focus. During the second half of last season he had a nagging hamstring strain and missed a game due to an ankle injury. As spring practices concluded, he underwent shoulder surgery.
Cook is hoping that adding 10 pounds will help him be able to stand up more to the rigors of the season.
With a bye week at midseason, Cook should get a chance to rest right before the pivotal Oct. 29 game against Clemson. He will be counted on heavily though during a challenging opening six-game stretch that includes four ranked opponents - Mississippi, Louisville (Sept. 17) and North Carolina (Oct. 1). There's also an Oct. 8 trip to Miami.
Fisher and strength coach Vic Viloria credit the Seminoles' GPS monitoring of player practice levels of preventing a more serious injury last season.
Viloria added about the GPS data: ''Guys run fast and are going to pull hamstrings. If he pulled his hamstring wouldn't you want everyone with a bad hamstring because he rushed for nearly 2,000 yards. With the GPS data Coach Fisher prevented a crack from becoming a crevice.''
Fisher, who said Cook's carries might be more monitored during the season, added that he has seen a more relaxed Cook.
''Dalvin's a very quiet guy,'' Fisher said. ''What I've seen a lot of growth in, he's more outgoing with his teammates. I think he's having a greater effect on them in everything he does.''
Florida State returns all of its offensive starters, but with Sean Maguire breaking his right foot on the second day of practice, redshirt freshman Deondre Francois will be the quarterback.
Fisher is hoping that the added experience at receiver will make the offense more balanced, but with a young quarterback and receivers struggling in practice, Cook will be counted on early.
Cook goes into the season needing 1,260 yards to break Warrick Dunn's school career mark of 3,959 yards. He's also trying to become the first running back from a Florida school to win the Heisman. Florida State, Florida and Miami have combined for seven Heisman winners, but all have gone to quarterbacks.
''You put all that talk in the back of your head,'' he said. ''If we do what we have to do as a group all the individual awards will take care of itself.''
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org