TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Given the success of his first two seasons at Florida State, it’s hard to imagine that Dalvin Cook entered his junior year with much room to improve. Turns out that he found some. Already one of the elite runners in college football, Cook in 2016 has emerged as a dangerous receiver out of the backfield. He’s already got 19 catches for 286 yards – second-most on the team in each category – and he’s averaging 15.1 yards every time he catches a pass.
Paired with his gaudy rushing total (635 yards, 127.0 per game), that yardage makes Cook the national leader in total yards from scrimmage.
Cook has 921. The next FBS player on the list, Syracuse’s Amba Etta-Tawo, has 840.
“He could always catch the ball very well,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “And then (he learned) how to get open and how to sit in a zone and how to work a man coverage guy. …
“He worked at the game.”
The process came gradually.
Cook ran a few basic routes in high school, and those translated well enough to the college level. He posted 203 receiving yards as a freshman in 2014, then upped that total to 244 a year later.
But as he entered his junior year, he wanted to kick things up a notch, both to help the Seminoles’ offense and to make himself a more complete player.
So he spent the offseason refining his hands on the “jugs” machine and polishing his routes – just like a receiver would.
“It helps our team that we can get him the ball in different ways to utilize him,” Fisher said. “And, plus, at the next level, that value is through the roof.”
The results have been, too.
Cook’s work was immediately apparent, as he caught seven passes for 101 yards – including catches of 24 and 25 yards – in FSU’s season-opening win over Mississippi.
He’s since had at least one catch in each game and, against North Carolina, had the best receiving game of his career: Six catches for 106 yards, with a 41-yard catch-and-run that set up FSU’s late, go-ahead touchdown.
Along the way, Cook became the first Seminole running back to have 100 yards both rushing and receiving in the same game.
“Coach Fisher did a great job of starting me off with little swing routes out of the backfield and just getting me one-on-one with linebackers,” Cook said. “I was winning those battles, and he just kept getting me more comfortable with it.”
Up next for Cook is a date with his hometown team, the Miami Hurricanes, a matchup which has boded well for the Seminoles in the past.
Two of the best games of his career of have come at Miami’s expense – a 269-yard, three touchdown outburst last year and a 110-yard, two-TD performance as a freshman in 2014 – and Cook said that the thought of Miami winning this year and breaking its six-game losing streak to FSU “irks” him.
A former standout at Miami Central High, Cook said he remembers the Seminoles’ team bus shaking as it pulled into Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.
“(FSU-Miami) is an experience that, when you’re a child, you look forward to,” Cook said. “I always wanted to play in it, and I’m just embracing the moment every time I go out there and play against the Hurricanes.
“That’s why I give it all I’ve got: It’s Miami week.”