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Film Room Friday: Florida State’s Dalvin Cook has elite counter speed

Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire

When it comes to an elite running back, sometimes all it takes is a split-second block to give them all the room they need to make a play happen. Florida State’s Dalvin Cook is in that category — elite — and he proved that in a big way against No. 3 Clemson this past weekend.

Sure, FSU lost, 37-34, but it was a tremendous game and the Seminoles came away looking strong after going punch-for-punch with a potential College Football playoff team. And it was Cook who led the way for Florida State.

He rushed 19 times for 169 yards and four touchdowns.

On the season, Cook has now rushed 178 times for 1,069 yards and 11 touchdowns, the yardage mark putting him among the top five running backs nationally. He’s averaging 133.63 yards per game, which is only behind SDSU’s Donnel Pumphrey, Texas’ D’Onta Foreman, Wyoming’s Brian Hill and BYU’s Jamaal Williams.

While Cook was awesome throughout the game against Clemson, there was one play in particular that stood out. It was a 70-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter that put FSU up 28-20. The Seminoles couldn’t hold onto that lead, but that wasn’t because of a lack of effort on Cook’s part. He also scored with 3:23 to go in the game to put FSU up, 34-29.

If it weren’t for a Jordan Leggett touchdown pass, Cook’s eight-yard stretch would have been the play of the game. His huge touchdown run, though? That was just impressive.

With all that in mind, let’s go back to Cook’s 70-yard touchdown run and break it down in today’s Film Room Friday feature:

The Play

The Breakdown

On 1st-and-10 from their own 30, the Seminoles were likely just trying to start the drive off with a strong run in order to set the team up with a 2nd-and-managable in order to open up the play book. Of course, with Cook in the backfield, even a set-up play can go to the house in the blink of an eye.

The Seminoles came out in a Trey-right look, with the tight end lined up as a sl0t-back rather than on the line. That allowed the outside-X receiver to come all the way up to the line of scrimmage on the right side and it forced Clemson to really worry about that side of the field. Notice that Clemson’s defense was keying pretty hard on the Trey look, while only putting one player on the receiver to FSU’s left side of the formation. That opened up a lot of running room to Clemson’s left.


The play that Florida State decided to run in this instance was a counter.

At the snap, you can see that Cook took a step or two to his right, and then in the next frame you’ll see how he broke to the left and took the hand off underneath the quarterback. In the meantime, the right guard came across the formation as the kick blocker, and the tight end followed right behind as the wrap block. In every counter play there’s always a kick and a wrap. The wrap block reads the back of the tackle on the counter side. If he can see the tackle’s numbers that means the tackle has blocked the EMOL (end man on line of scrimmage) out and the wrap player will turn up inside. If he can’t see the numbers, he’ll wrap off the edge of the line of scrimmage, which widens the running back’s lane.


A rule the kick blocker follows is that if he can see the front of the EMOL’s jersey, he’ll block him out. If the EMOL crashes inside, he’ll also become a wrap blocker. That’s what happened in this play, so both the FSU guard and tight end became wrap blockers, setting a hard edge for Cook. Below you can see how the blocks started to come together as Cook came back on his counter:


Both blocks hit their mark, but below you’ll see where Cook really set himself apart. He read the blocks perfectly and started to bounce out into open space on the edge. From there, he was able to hit that elusive second gear only the great backs have, but it all started with being able to read the blocks and bounce outside:


Speed on the edge is what every running back works to have, but not every running back has it at the elite level Cook does. He was able to beat Clemson’s defenders to open space and turn the corner, and from there it was off to the races.

A few seconds later Cook broke the tape into the end zone, proving that he’s indeed not just one of the best running backs in the nation, but one of the best overall players in college football.


“Dalvin had another great game. I’ve seen him play a lot of good ones. He had space and he outran angles,” Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said after the game, according to Joe Reedy of the Associated Press. “They’re going to throw haymakers, we’re going to throw haymakers. We battled back but unfortunately we came up short.”

FSU may have come up short, but it was Cook who threw most of the haymakers for the Seminoles in what turned out to be a great individual game for the Heisman contender.

Note: Screen grabs via @TailgateHeisman on Twitter. Play markings are my own.

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