Monday Mailbag: Running backs, ZaQuandre White, and offensive touches

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With the first week of fall practice over for Florida State, there’s a lot to talk about with the Seminoles. A quarterback battle is brewing and the offense as a whole seems like it may be in a better position than it was a year ago, especially with the talent at running back.

On defense, Harlon Barnett is retooling the system to try and help a unit that’s struggled in recent years. The defensive line and secondary are stacked but the linebackers are still trying to establish depth.

FSU is focused in their quest to open the 2018 season with a win against Virginia Tech. Let’s hope that carries over to their week of practice at IMG Academy.

What do you think the distribution of touches will look like for the RBs per game? – thegreatcaesar1

A year ago, Oregon had four running backs carry the ball 64+ times. The main benefactor of that production was Royce Freeman, who rushed the ball 244 times for 1475 yards and 16 scores.

I think the `Noles have five running backs of their own that are talented enough to produce at the collegiate level. Obviously, you know what you have in Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick. Khalan Laborn looked phenomenal in the spring game and if that carries over, he could be a heck of a weapon in the RB rotation. And you also have Amir Rasul, who hasn’t broken out yet but has flashed his abilities in spurts when we’ve seen him.

Finally, there’s true freshman Anthony Grant. I think there’s a chance he plays in four games but I don’t think the Seminoles will play him more than that due to the new redshirt rule. You can now redshirt players who’ve played in four games or less. It seems smart for Willie Taggart to save Grant for the future.

I imagine FSU will likely have close to the same strategy as the Ducks in 2017. We’ll see three-five running backs getting consistent time with the pace of the gulf coast offense. The carry distribution will probably be closer than it was for Freeman at Oregon but expect Cam Akers to get the most carries for the `Noles this season. I see Patrick and Laborn behind him.

How’s ZaQuandre White looking at linebacker? – cognac09

It was a little bit of a questionable move when Florida State opened fall camp with ZaQuandre White at linebacker. The former four-star running back was one of the best in Florida during the class of 2017 but with FSU absolutely stacked at the position entering 2018, White likely wouldn’t get the amount of playing time he wants during his redshirt freshman season.

There’s much more of an opportunity for him to contribute at linebacker. The position is easily the biggest question mark on this roster outside of the offensive line. The Seminoles have a lot of talent but not a ton of experience. White is already showing that his physicality and athleticism can contribute to this defense.

He intercepted a pass from Deondre Francois and took it back for six earlier this week. White also posted a clip to Instagram of him absolutely laying out a receiver. He seems to be settling into his new position through the first week of camp.

How do you handle all of the talents at running back? – @Benmorgan34

FSU has been working on handling their ‘problem’ at running back since Taggart took over as head coach. Jonathan Vickers, Deonte Sheffield, and White all played RB in 2017 but we’ll see them at different positions this season. Vickers has moved to tight-end, Sheffield to wide receiver, and the aforementioned White to linebacker.

That’s mitigated the playing time issue because Taggart’s offense requires a multitude of ball carriers. Plus, the pace means he’ll be able to continuously rotate to keep his players fresh.

Florida State also isn’t planning to take a running in the class of 2019 unless it’s a five-star talent like Trey Sanders, which isn’t likely at this moment, and Patrick will graduate after this season. As of now, the Seminoles would return Cam Akers, Khalan Laborn, Amir Rasul, and Anthony Grant in 2019.

Which running back besides Akers do you see having a bigger role in the offense? Rushing or Receiving? – Stone Quillen

Personally, I really believe Laborn is ready to contribute at this level. He’s got the size and speed to be elite and he showed some of that ability during the spring. While Laborn will be good on the ground I think he especially could develop into solid receiver out of the backfield.

The former five-star prospect has great hands, possibly the best out of all of the running backs, and could be an advantage there for Taggart and Walt Bell.

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