TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Midway through Saturday’s Garnet and Gold spring game, freshman running back Cam Akers caught a pass over the middle of the field and darted through the heart of Florida State’s defense before colliding, full speed, with star safety Derwin James.
It was the type of collision – and James is the type of heavy hitter – that would send most college athletes flying in one direction while their mouthpiece flew in another.
But, as he set out to prove on Saturday afternoon, Akers is no ordinary college athlete. He bounced off of James, caught his balance and kept his legs churning before James regained the upper hand and brought him down after a 17-yard gain.
Score it a draw for the unstoppable force and the immovable object.
“That’s what (Akers) does all the time,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said following the Gold’s 17-7 victory. “He did it every day in practice. In those goal-line scrimmages we had, Derwin, the (linebackers), the D-linemen – all those guys had shots on him.”
During a day in which points and big plays came at a premium, James and Akers – both of whom wear jersey No. 3 – provided more than their share of memorable moments.
James, making his return to action following a seven-month recovery from knee surgery, rewarded fans for their patience by posting a team-high seven tackles (three for loss) and two sacks.
And the box score doesn’t show the way James almost singlehandedly derailed the Garnet offense during the first half.
Or the way he broke up a fourth-down pass by delivering a punishing hit to walk-on receiver Gilbert Henric.
So much for shaking off the rust.
“He’s better than he ever was,” quarterback Deondre Francois said.
“He’s all over the field,” senior linebacker Jacob Pugh added. “He’s Superman.”
And although it might be a little early to give Akers a cape, the freshman early-enrollee at least gave every indication that he’ll be ready to contribute sooner rather than later.
Bolstered by a 35-yard run, Akers led the Florida State rushing attack with 87 yards on just 10 carries.
But much like James, Akers’ contributions go beyond his statistics. At 5-10, 213 pounds, Akers is strong enough to run through defenders who dare try to arm-tackle him, and he’s also got the speed and vision to find and burst through holes at the line of scrimmage.
“He’s very natural,” Fisher said.
Akers’ outing was part of an encouraging afternoon for FSU’s running backs: Playing behind a reworked offensive line, three Seminole running backs averaged more than five yards per carry, and, removing quarterback yardage, the Garnet and Gold backs combined for 240 yards on 43 attempts.
That, of course, is welcome news for an offense looking to fill the oversized shoes left in the wake of All-American Dalvin Cook’s departure.
“I thought (Akers) and Jacques (Patrick) ran well and I thought Ryan Green had some really nice runs,” Fisher said. “I thought Jacques had some really nice power runs and inside runs and ran good, and Cam got the chance in space.”
Akers made the most of that chance in the third quarter, when he took a handoff, bounced to his right and accelerated down the right sideline for a 35-yard gain.
And he might have scored, were it not for James’ relentless pursuit. The safety caught up with Akers downfield and brought him down from behind.
“I thought (Akers) bounced a little bit and should have gotten more stout, but he’ll learn open-field running,” Fisher said.
Still, if this is just Akers’ opening act, the Seminoles have to be eager for what’s in store.
“I feel like his production will be better than his talent,” Francois said. “And that’s a good attribute to have. He’s a smart kid and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.”