November 27, 2013

Insider Report: Freeman chases 1,000 yards

Devonta Freeman doesn't have a favorite running play this season. He likes them all.

Zone stretches, zone insides, free releases to the flat where he can get the ball, It's all equally appealing.

"Every time I get the ball I like it," Freeman said. "Any time I get a touch I like it."

So far this season, Freeman has made the most of his touches. He's fresh off his best game of the season, rushing for 129 yards on just 11 carries against Idaho. Not only that, but he's up to 808 rushing yards on the season, meaning he needs just 182 more to become FSU's first 1,000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn.

"Still, 1,000 yards is 1,000 yards and that means a lot," head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "That's a plateau that's been set in this sport. If he gets it, I'm happy for him. That means the other thing, we were able to run the football, which I'm all for."

What's more, Freeman's piled up those yards in a crowded backfield and with limited touches. He's averaging just 11.9 carries per game and has had single-digit carries five times this season. That's a trend shared with the entire FSU backfield as touches rotate between Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr.. Freeman said knowing the scarcity of touches gives him and the other running backs extra motivation to make big plays.

"I think everybody's hungry," Freeman said. "Everybody's going out like, 'I might get 3 carries this game so these might be my three carries.' Even I go out there with that mentality."

But so far this season, Freeman has been the most consistently productive back for Florida State, and considering the Seminoles are running for 211.6 yards per game and have 37 touchdowns on the ground, he's running a productive unit. Freeman's versatility have allowed him to remain on the field - he's got 8 runs of 20 or more yards and also has converted five of seven attempts on third and 3 or shorter. On third and short plays, Freeman averages 11 yards per carry. Freeman said he's broadened his running repertoire this season.

"I'm starting to learn how to run outside," Freeman said. "Outside zone I used to have a lot of trouble with that play. I like to run inside because it's a lot more between the tackles. I can make a quick cut. Outside I just had a thing where I don't trust it as much. But as the season went on I started understanding the plays and I trust it a lot now."

Freeman said people - including media - ask him about breaking the 1,000 yard barrier frequently, and that he's had to block it out over the course of the season.

"It'd mean a lot," Freeman said of getting 1,000 yards. "But I feel like if we win a championship that would be way better. That's individual goals and I'm not about individual things. I see the big picture and I want to get to the championship."

Fisher says he delegates more with new staff

Jimbo Fisher's new coaching staff is apparently working out just fine.

Outside of the breathtaking success of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, whose defensive scheme as FSU leading the country in interceptions, Florida State's overhauled coaching lineup seems to be fitting in with Fisher well.

Fisher said he's already reached a relatively high comfort level with his new coaching staff, particularly on the offensive side, despite adding six new assistants.

Fisher said he feels all the assistant coaches share his philosophy, and added that he has high praise for new quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders. He said he delegates more to this coaching staff than he has previously. Fisher cautioned that some of that was the more experienced roster of players that required less hand-holding, but did say that the offensive coaches make decisions collectively.

""A little bit," Fisher said. "Yes, probably so. Where we're at as a team too, not only with our coaches, but our players too. They've been in the system longer and got more experience in all the different avenues and what we're able to do. From our staff point, this staff has done a tremendous job in my opinion of allowing me to (have) more free time to do other things."

FSU not planning to overlook UF

Florida's season has been a well-chronicled mess so far. The Gators are on a six-game losing streak and, in the coup de grace, lost to FBS Georgia Southern to ensure that UF won't go to a bowl for the first time since 1979.

The losses and the general struggles of Florida's offense mean the usually intense rivalry game is somewhat lessened in suspense: FSU is on a path to the national title game, while Florida is on a path for a long and painful offseason of rebuilding.

For FSU players, that doesn't change the importance of Saturday's game.

"I feel like they don't have nothing to lose," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "They're going to come out and they're going to give us their best shot. It's almost like a setup."

Jernigan and FSU's defense have plenty of reason to play well - Florida's win last season in Tallahassee came with a punishing running game that shoved around FSU's defense. Jernigan and other players have spoken about that before this season in veiled references, and Jernigan said he still respects the UF front.

"In my eyes, I feel like the offensive line is one of the strengths of the offense. I feel like they'll play us tougher or us tough as any offensive line has up front. I know they're going to come out and try to run the ball right down our throats."

So far, FSU has improved against the run during the season - in fact, in the past four games, FSU has given up 2.52 yards per carry. That includes holding Miami to just 83 yards on 29 rushes in that game as well. FSU hasn't given up a rushing touchdown since Oct. 26 and hasn't given up any rushing touchdown in the first half.

  • The postseason awards continue to roll in for Florida State. Currently, Jameis Winston is a finalist for both the Manning award and for the Davy O'Brien award. Nick O'Leary is a finalist for the Mackey award for best tight end, while Lamarcus Joyner is a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award for best defensive back and Roberto Aguayo is a finalist for the Lou Groza award for best kicker.

  • FSU's most recent catchphrase to use is apparently "catfishing." And no, it's not what you think. Devonta Freeman and Lamarcus Joyner both said that Catfishing means holding teammates accountable and getting on slacking players. Apparently the term came from a guest speaker during fall camp.

  • Much has been made of Florida's offensive woes this season, but here's a fun statistic: In the past two games, Florida has 229 passing yards and two scores. In the same time frame, FSU's defense has 209 interception yards and two scores.

  • ...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!