After a sluggish start on Saturday, Florida State racked up 377 rushing yards in a 62-7 victory over Nevada in its home opener. The junior running back combination of Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., known as “Wild and Free” combined for 154 yards on two touchdowns on Saturday, but the backfield combo may be on its way to undergoing a name change from “Wild and Free” to “Wild and FreeWill” following Saturday.
In his first game at the running back position, the former top safety recruit in the country, junior Karlos Williams, hit the ground running; and literally. On the first carry of his career early in the third quarter on Saturday, Williams took a pitch from freshman quarterback Jameis Winston 65 yards for a score, giving the Seminoles a 31-7 lead. Williams finished the day averaging nearly 14 yards per carry and with a game-high 110 yards rushing.
Williams never looked anything other than comfortable at his new position on Saturday and his breakaway speed was on full display from the time of his first touch. Williams’ combination of speed and power will make for just one more dynamic piece to an already loaded arsenal around quarterback Jameis Winston.
Williams’ transition from safety to tailback will also make the Seminoles miss highly-touted freshman running back Mario Pender just a little less. Pender was deemed academically ineligible prior to the season leaving FSU thin at tailback behind Wilder and Freeman, but Williams will more than fill that void and looks to become a regular in the backfield rotation.
The real question will be how Florida State finds playing time and touches for all three backs. After just one game at the position, it’s impossible to know what Williams will give the Seminoles on a weekly basis, but Saturday proved that he does need to be on the field. The good news for Florida State’s talented trio of backs however, is that head coach Jimbo Fisher has been far from reluctant to put both Freeman and Wilder on the field at the same time and Williams will likely just add to the rotation.
At 230 pounds, Williams has good size and may be used to help block for Freeman and Winston from a spread formation the way that Wilder, a 230-pound back in his own right, has at times this season. While Williams is new to the running back position, he is not unfamiliar with having the ball in his hands as the junior from Davenport was a regular returning kickoffs a season ago.
With Terrence Brooks and Tyler Hunter both having solid seasons early on at the safety position, Williams’ move to running back is proving to be the right one. Fisher called Williams a natural with the ball in his hands and never was that on display more than on Saturday. Williams isn’t likely to average 14 yards per carry every week, but his ability to run with speed and power adds much-needed depth to an already solid contingent of backs for Florida State. If Williams can continue to produce, Florida State may very well have the best trio of backs in the ACC and arguably one of the best in the entire country.
Finding carries for all three backs will be a challenge for Fisher and the Florida State offense, but at the moment, that seems to be a problem that a lot of football coaches would love to have.