TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With the news that junior Jacques Patrick, the second-leading rusher for the Seminoles, will miss time with torn cartilage in his knee, an alarming, yet inevitable reality is facing Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.
The Seminoles’ hopes of sparking an offense that averages 19.8 points per game this season now will rely on an army of freshman skill position players.
Jimbo Fisher confirms that Jacques Patrick tore cartilage in his knee. Happened during the game. Jacques didn’t realize it had happened.
— Tim Linafelt / FSU (@Tim_Linafelt) October 23, 2017
Freshman quarterback James Blackman already had been forced into action after opening-day starter Deondre Francois sustained a season-ending injury late in the loss to Alabama.
Blackman has performed mostly well over the last five games — with the loss to Louisville on Saturday being the exception. A costly late turnover deep in Cardinals territory in a tied ballgame ultimately led to another last-minute loss.
But now, Fisher faces the need to rely on another freshman. With Patrick now sidelined indefinitely, Fisher spoke to the media during his media availability on Monday about what the junior meant to the offense.
“A lot of knowledge and experience from him, not just running. The way he’s been running the football, he’s done a great job,” Fisher said. “Running with power and catching the ball. But blocking, chipping and all of the little nuances that go unnoticed, but as a football coach, you love, that’s a big thing you have to replace from him.”
Now, the responsibility falls to freshman Cam Akers to take over for Patrick as the team’s featured back. Akers leads the Seminoles with 455 yards rushing, but Fisher noted that the role he now will take on is something even departed star Dalvin Cook did not have to handle this early in his college career.
“That’s going to be the role for Cam,” Fisher said. “We talk about Cam, but Dalvin [Cook] wasn’t even running the ball as much now. Cam’s been forced into that role and he’s done a good job. But now, he has to do all those little nuances that really make a difference in your offense. That’s going to be another role that will be put upon him. He will have to do it.”
Akers will be backed up by sophomore Amir Rasul, senior Ryan Green and fellow freshmen Khalan Laborn and Zaquandre White.
Injuries have played a role in elevating Blackman and Akers, and that same factor could force freshman receivers D.J. Matthews and Tamorrion Terry to join in on the Seminoles freshman offensive experience.
Junior Nyqwan Murray is the only healthy experienced option for the Seminoles heading into the game at Boston College on Friday (8 p.m. ET ESPN).
Receivers George Campbell (core) and Keith Gavin (ankle) are nursing injuries that caused them to miss the Louisville game; their status for the Boston College game is uncertain at best. Matthews and Terry are two of a handful of scholarship receivers left on the roster.
Factor in that leading receiver Auden Tate has battled through injury issues of his own to get on the field, and it’s clear that Florida State needs all the help it can get.
While Blackman and Akers are somewhat known quantities at the midway point of the season, Matthews and Terry are largely unknowns.
Senior walk-on receiver Jared Jackson, who appeared in the Louisville game, commented on Tuesday about the progress that the youngest Seminoles pass catchers have made in practice recently.
“[D.J. and Tamorrion] have looked really good the last couple of weeks,” Jackson said. “That’s the best I’ve seen both of them look is probably yesterday at practice, so they are definitely both coming along and I’m excited to see what they can do.”
The 5-foot-10, 151-pound Matthews has appeared in three games and caught 1 pass for 12 yards while the 6-foot-4, 191-pound Terry has yet to see action this season.
As recruits, Matthews was the No. 8 receiver and the No. 51 player overall while Terry rated as the No. 52 receiver and the No. 350 player overall in the 2017 class, according to the 247Sports composite.
Senior safety Trey Marshall said both Matthews and Terry have fared well in practice since they arrived on campus a few months ago.
“Me personally, I’ve seen their talents since camp. Since day one when they first got here,” Marshall said. “They were out there doing what needed to be done. It’s their time to shine and hopefully they do.”
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