Back Akers, Patrick Lead Noles Into Taggart Era

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Akers, Patrick Lead Noles Into Taggart Era

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Florida State returns two star running backs in sophomore Cam Akers and senior Jacques Patrick, who combined for 1,760 yards and 14 touchdowns a season ago.

Florida State returns two star running backs in sophomore Cam Akers and senior Jacques Patrick, who combined for 1,760 yards and 14 touchdowns a season ago. Akers burst onto the scene as a highly-touted true freshman, while Patrick set career highs despite being limited by injury. Surprisingly, the Seminoles have ranked in the top-half of the ACC in rushing just once over the last four years. With Akers and Patrick both back, and Willie Taggart in as head coach, expect FSU to have one of the nation's best and most productive backfields this fall.

Coming to Tallahassee from Oregon and, previously, South Florida, Taggart's last three offenses have all ranked in the national top 12 in rushing, averaging over 261 yards per game in that span. His final season with the Bulls, South Florida paced all non-triple option teams with over 285 yards per contest, 47 scores and 6.51 yards per carry. Taggart, prior to his time as a head coach, oversaw running backs at Stanford the year Doak Walker Award winner Toby Gerhart led the nation in both rushing yards and scores.

In Taggart's last two games with the Ducks before taking the Florida State job, Oregon rushed for 664 yards and ten touchdowns while scoring 117 total points.

A year ago, Akers was one of the most impressive first-year players in the country. He set a new program record with 1,025 yards for a true freshman, topping the 100-yard mark four separate times, including a 121-yard performance against rival Miami and a 199-yard, two-touchdown outburst against Syracuse. Akers is a speedster with great footwork, also capable of attacking the line of scrimmage at 215 pounds. He has a combination of elusiveness and explosiveness that keeps the big play always in-play.

Patrick is a noted team leader who turned down the NFL for one more go as standout senior. His leadership will be key through the coaching transition. A driving north-south runner, Patrick has 16 career rushing touchdowns. He returned from injury to score six touchdowns in the final five games, rushing for 155 yards against Louisiana-Monroe as Florida State's record bowl streak was extended. Throughout Patrick's career, the Seminoles are 8-0 when he receives 15 carries or more.

Even with a healthy Deondre Francois, who threw for 3,350 yards and 20 scores at quarterback in 2016, look for Akers and Patrick to be the offensive focal point for Florida State. Change may be the spring theme for the Seminoles, but familiar names will stay right in the spotlight. Taggart has a proven history of running the football and inherits two proven commodities in his new position. Akers and Patrick don't just top the depth chart, but the priority list as well.

Together, Akers and Patrick compliment each other, all while helping to make Florida State a contender.

Taggart has plan for returning the Seminoles, a true college football power, to national prominence. A dynamic offensive backfield is poised to be where progress will start.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports