Throughout the offseason, Jimbo Fisher preached that the 2015 Florida State team would have a run-first mentality. Of course, that was obvious looking at the roster. They returned the phenomenal Dalvin Cook and had good depth with Mario Pender, Jonathan Vickers, and five-star freshman Jacques Patrick. Meanwhile, Florida State was breaking in a new quarterback in Everett Golson and returned the youngest combination of receivers during Jimbo’s tenure at Florida State.
The problem here is that Jimbo has preached this before. 2014 was supposed to be a “run-first” year, but that didn’t turn out as planned (as we’ll see in a second). Jimbo has always been a quarterback guy. He played quarterback in college and has coached them throughout his coaching career. So it might be a hard for a guy who loves to pass so much to turn over a new leaf and focus on running the ball more. But has Florida State actually been running the ball more this season? Let’s dive into the numbers and see.
When we look at the data, we can see that Jimbo is calling runs on about 55% of plays, as compare to only 45% passes. This data is slightly skewed, because quarterback scrambles (which are originally pass plays) are assigned to the “run” column, but it doesn’t affect the data too much. At this ratio, 2015 ranks third behind 2010 and 2008 in terms of Jimbo’s likelihood to call run plays, but they all are pretty much the same with about a 55% clip.
Part of the reason why Jimbo is calling more runs is because running the ball is more efficient for the ‘Noles this season. While I’m certain Florida State wanted to run the ball more in 2014, they only averaged 4.3 yards per rush and had a terrible start to the season on the ground. If you remember, Karlos Williams was supposed to be the transcendent talent at running back behind a veteran offensive line, but Williams struggled on the ground and the offensive line needed a reshaping halfway through the season. Coincidentally, 2014 ranked first in terms of Jimbo’s likelihood to call passing plays, which he called at about a 53% ratio to 46% runs. Of course, he had Jameis Winston at quarterback, but 2014 was only one of three seasons with Jimbo as playcaller that the ‘Noles went over 50% passing.
In 2015, Florida State is more efficient running the ball. They are averaging 5.5 yards per attempt, mostly due to the incredible talent of Dalvin Cook who is averaging 8.6 yards/attempt himself. Florida State’s offense ranks first in Rushing S&P+ and they are averaging 192.3 yards per game. Cook also leads the nation in Highlight Yards per Opportunity (a stat that calculates the portion of the run that is solely dependent on the running back after the offensive line has done their job) with 13.9 yards/opportunity.
In short, Jimbo is running the ball more than he has in a while. This is encouraging, because the running game will definitely be the focus of the offense as Florida State enters the heart of their conference schedule. Unfortunately, Dalvin Cook is questionable for Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury and Mario Pender is still out with a collapsed lung, which leaves Jonathan Vickers and Jacques Patrick as the sole healthy backs. Jimbo might be inclined to air it out, but the real threat of this offense lies on the ground.