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FSU to use James Wilder, Devonta Freeman in same backfield


Florida State junior tailbacks Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. combined for 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, when they shared time with then-senior Chris Thompson, who was the team's leading rusher.

This season, in what he calls an effort to "get your best people on the field," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said he will play Freeman and Wilder in the same backfield.

Lonnie Pryor started at fullback for FSU last season, but he was a senior. Besides, Fisher said the blocking provided by "traditional" fullbacks in most offenses today isn't like it used to be, so he's not worried about not having a fullback in certain instances.

"Lonnie was such a tremendous cut-blocker and edge blocker," Fisher told the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat. "But not many of those blocks were truly ... right-down-the-pipe, hit-you-right-in-the-mouth block. Those days are over with. There's not many of those blocks going on today in football. And so it's about creating and getting the best people on the field."

Freeman, who ran for 660 yards and eight scores in 2012, likes the idea of playing with Wilder in the same backfield.

"It's just going to keep the defense more balanced," he told the Democrat. "They're going to have to play fair. They won't be able to cheat to one side."

Freeman led the team in rushing with 579 yards as a true freshman in 2011 and was second last season with 660 yards. Freeman is quicker than Wilder, and while he lacks elite speed, Freeman (5-feet-9, 203 pounds) usually can turn the corner.

Wilder (6-2, 229) has run for 795 yards and 12 TDs in his first two seasons. He is a tough, physical runner who isn't a shifty guy; instead, he runs over people. Wilder has developed into a competent receiver, which is a question for Freeman.

Neither has dealt with a heavy workload. In 26 career games, Wilder has had double-digit carries just six times. Freeman has had as many as 15 carries four times in 26 games, and three of those contests came in 2011.

There also are high hopes at tailback for redshirt freshman Mario Pender and true freshman Ryan Green; both have good speed and are considered big-play threats.

Whomever is at tailback will run behind what should be the best offensive line in the ACC. In addition, FSU is going to have a first-time starter at quarterback in redshirt freshman Jameis Winston, so it seems likely Fisher leans heavily on his rushing attack, at least early in the season.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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