TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State running back Dalvin Cook had people wondering if something was wrong after he failed to post a 100-yard performance in the first three games of the season.
He has put most of those concerns to rest over the past three games for the 14th-ranked Seminoles .
The junior leads Power 5 backs in rushing yards going into Saturday’s game against Wake Forest. But the more surprising stat to Cook is that he leads the nation in yards gained from scrimmage with 1,130.
Cook said he didn’t realize that until he was asked about it.
“There’s some satisfaction but always in the back of your head you know you are capable of doing more,” he said. “Overall there is still a lot of stuff I have to clean up, but I have been having some solid performances.”
Cook is averaging 185.7 rushing yards over the past three games, including a career best 267 in a win at South Florida on Sept. 24 . The following week in a loss to North Carolina he became the first running back in school history with 100 yards rushing and receiving.
The biggest difference over the past three games is that Cook has been more aggressive. NFL scouts, who consider Cook to be one of the top three backs in next year’s draft if he leaves FSU early, said they thought Cook was tentative and was just taking what the defense gave him.
However, Cook has looked more like the physical and elusive back he was last season, when he set a school single-season record for rushing yards.
“There were some plays early in the season when he would find a hole, get to the second or third level and some guys who shouldn’t have tackled him one-on-one were making the stops,” said Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout who now works for NFL Network. “Now you see him running with more power and getting more than what the play might be giving him.”
With 20 receptions at the midway point of the season, Cook is on pace to be the first Florida State running back with 30 or more catches since Lorenzo Booker in 2006. Cook has 11 receptions the past three games and is averaging 261.3 scrimmage yards in that span.
Cook is tied with Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel for most receiving yards by a running back with 345. His 59-yard reception off a Deondre Francois play action pass last week against No. 16 Miami showed that the Seminoles (4-2, 1-2 ACC) aren’t afraid to send him on routes downfield, instead of just throwing it to him on screens and flares.
“Last year he was a great running back. This year he’s catching the ball,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “Then with some of their quarterback run game, they’re using him as a blocker. He’s a tough kid.”
Clawson and the Demon Deacons (5-1, 2-1) know all about Cook’s big play capability. He had a 94-yard touchdown during the first quarter of last year’s game, which is the third-longest run in school history.
Another thing that pleases Fisher is that he feels like Cook is starting to hit his groove at the right time. Cook struggled during the second half of last season with hamstring problems and missed one game due to an ankle injury but appears to be healthy this year.
Cook and the rest of the Seminoles though should benefit from a bye next week before an Oct. 29 showdown with No. 3 Clemson. Last year FSU’s bye came early as it played nine straight weeks.
“He’s 210-215 pounds. He gets his rest,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “The number of plays is not a ton, and I know (sophomore running back Jacques Patrick) has been cutting down on some touches lately because we’ve thrown it a little bit more at times the last couple weeks. He’s never perfect, but he’s getting in that groove.”
Online: The AP’s college football page: http://collegfootball.ap.org