Florida State's top 10 running back commitments
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
The Florida State Seminoles added yet another marquee running back to its potent offense with the recent commitment of Virginia’s Khalan Laborn, a national top-40 prospect. Where does he stand historically in Rivals.com history when it comes to the Noles' running back commitments?
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1. Lorenzo Booker (2002)
The skinny: After taking official visits to Florida State, USC, Notre Dame and Washington, the Fighting Irish emerged as a favorite as the recruiting cycle neared a close. However, Booker pulled off a huge surprise on National Signing Day by announcing his commitment to Florida State. Booker’s most productive seasons with the Seminoles were the last two, which led him to be selected in the third round by Miami in the 2007 NFL Draft. Despite signing a four-year contract with the Dolphins, Booker was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles following the 2007 season after having an unproductive rookie campaign. He again failed to produce with the Eagles, which resulted in him being waived. This was followed by stints in the United Football League, the Minnesota Vikings and finally the Chicago Bears, where he was cut after the 2012 season.
Farrell’s take: Booker had tremendous talent, could cut on a dime and was blindingly fast, but his lack of size and inability to gain yardage after contact eventually made him fall short of expectations. Ranking backs with limited size is a tricky business as more seem to fall short than exceed expectations, but most everyone who saw Booker in high school expected the next Warrick Dunn at FSU. It didn’t happen.
2. James Wilder Jr. (2011)
The skinny: With offers from a majority of the top programs in the country, Wilder trimmed his list down to Florida State, Florida and Georgia. Some rumors circulated that Georgia was the leader, but during a press conference at his school Wilder committed to the Seminoles. His final two seasons in Tallahassee were productive but never reached the standards that most expected. He still decided to forego his senior season and went undrafted in 2014. Signed by Cincinnati as a free agent, he spent his first two seasons on the Bengals’ practice squad. In January he signed a reserve/future contract with Buffalo, where he’ll be fighting for a roster spot this summer.
Farrell’s take: Ah, the debates we had over Wilder were interesting. I felt for sure he was a much better linebacker prospect than he was a running back, but his insistence on following in his father’s footsteps as a running back and a very good performance at the Army Bowl had us move him from athlete to running back in our rankings. My concerns regarding his speed and footwork in space were clearly valid as he just never developed into the big running back star many projected, but in the end this is on me as I expected him to be moved to defense if he was only average on offense, thus keeping his ranking so high.
3. Dalvin Cook (2014)
The skinny: Cook was an early commitment to Florida, but he took official visits to Florida State, Arkansas and Texas during his senior season. As the new year approached rumors of a possible flip to Florida State began to intensify. Finally, during the week of the Under Armour All-America Game, Cook did what most expected as he flipped from the Gators to the Seminoles. During his two seasons in Tallahassee, Cook has established himself as one of the top overall running backs in the country. He's already totaled 2,699 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground, and all eyes will be on Cook to see if he can take his game to a higher level this fall.
Farrell’s take: Cook is emerging as one of the best running backs I’ve seen in college football in the last 20 years, but I was a bit stubborn when it came to his ranking and he didn’t earn that fifth star until the last cycle if I recall correctly. I guess all that matters is the final ranking, right? He got thicker and stronger as his high school career unfolded and by the end of his career he was simply dominant and special. He was so much fun to watch and continues to be a ranking we are proud of despite how late it occurred.
4. Jacques Patrick (2015)
The skinny: While Florida State was considered the heavy favorite heading into his senior season, Patrick took official visits to Ohio State and Texas A&M in September, and he also considered Ohio State. An early enrollee, Patrick made his decision in late October and didn’t pull any surprises with a commitment to the Seminoles. Patrick will have to wait his time in Tallahassee while Dalvin Cook currently grabs the majority of the carries. However, despite only having 63 carries as a true freshman last fall, he did show a great deal of potential, which has Florida State fans and coaches excited.
Farrell’s take: One of the biggest running backs I’ve scouted, Patrick had to prove to me and the rest of the team that he could run with body lean and leverage and he quickly did that. But what was also impressive was his ability in space and his hands. He could be the next star running back at Florida State once Cook leaves and opens the door. Patrick is huge but has those light feet you want.
5. Antone Smith (2005)
The skinny: Smith took a December official visit to Auburn followed by January trips to Miami, Florida and finally Florida State in the days leading up to National Signing Day. The Hurricanes were considered the heavy favorite for Smith, but the official visit to Tallahassee was enough to help the Seminoles pull off a huge Signing Day surprise. Smith became a major part of Florida State’s offense in 2007 and 2008, but he still went undrafted in 2009. After jumping between three teams, Smith finally found a home in Atlanta, where he played from 2009 to 2014. After being waived in 2015 by the Falcons, Smith had a short stint with Chicago before also being waived by the Bears in December. He is currently unsigned and looking for a playing home this fall.
Farrell’s Take: Smith was short but he was powerfully built and I remember him running like a little bowling ball and bouncing off would-be tacklers when he wasn’t running away from them. He was a dominant runner in high school who was a threat to score from anywhere and was sneaky strong. This was a major recruiting upset for the ‘Noles and he panned out nicely.
6. Mario Pender (2012)
The skinny: Pender actually committed to Florida State during his junior season, but he still took official visits to West Virginia and Tennessee during his senior campaign. However, these visits never caused him to waiver on his commitment to the Seminoles and he became an early enrollee in 2012. Pender contributed during the 2014 season, but he was limited to only three games in 2015 after suffering a collapsed lung. The downward spiral continued for Pender in May when he was dismissed from the program after he was arrested.
Farrell’s take: The big debate during Pender’s year was whether he was a better running back than Randy “Duke” Johnson. It was close, as both finished in the top 10 in the state rankings. Pender, unfortunately, had injury and off-field issues and never had a chance to show his stuff while Johnson became a star at Miami and is in the NFL. But many felt he was the better of the two backs. I didn’t, however, as Johnson was a five-star and Pender fell just short.
Nos. 7 - 11
Farrell’s Take: You’ll notice I extended this to 11 instead of a round 10 because I wanted to include Freeman, who has emerged as an NFL star. That’s just pure selfishness on my part, but of course there will be many who will claim they would have had him as a five-star. Laborn could be a great one if he keeps his head on straight. Edwards started off well but fell off because the competition was just better than him. Green has been moved to defensive back and Thompson was an amazing story coming back from a broken back to a great last year before succumbing to another injury. Freeman is the big surprise of the group after transitioning from a solid but not spectacular career at FSU to a Pro Bowl this past season.