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Florida State RB Battle: Wilder Jr. vs. Freeman

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Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

One of the most interesting position battles in the ACC is between Florida State running backs James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman. This is no ordinary position battle between players not fit to earn a starting role. Both are amazing talents capable of starting on just about every other FBS team.

Last season, the duo shared backfield duties with the equally impressive Chris Thompson, who missed the final six games of the season due to injury. Thompson was an outstanding back and replacing him will be no easy task. Let's have a closer look how each running back fared in the second half of the season with Thompson out of the lineup.

James Wilder Jr.

Date Opponent Carries Yards YPC TDs

Oct. 27

Duke

13

70

5.4

1

Nov. 8

@ Virginia Tech

4

10

2.5

0

Nov. 17

@ Maryland

8

52

6.5

1

Nov. 24

No. 9 Florida

3

13

4.3

0

Dec. 1

Georgia Tech

10

69

6.9

2

Jan. 1

No. 22 Northern Ill.

11

52

4.7

0

Devonta Freeman

Date Opponent Carries Yards YPC TDs

Oct. 27

Duke

12

104

8.7

2

Nov. 8

@ Virginia Tech

7

-5

-0.7

0

Nov. 17

@ Maryland

16

148

9.3

2

Nov. 24

No. 9 Florida

8

37

4.6

0

Dec. 1

Georgia Tech

13

59

4.5

1

Jan. 1

No. 22 Northern Ill.

14

30

2.1

0

Check out this comparison between the two backs based on their 2012 stats and try to predict which is Wilder Jr. and which is Freeman.

Running back A: 111 carries, 660 yards (5.9 YPC), 8 touchdowns.
Running back B: 110 carries, 635 yards (5.8 YPC), 11 touchdowns.

Wilder Jr. (B) and Freeman (A) are dead even when it comes to most statistics, and they put up some impressive ones considering they were both sophomores. Both showed remarkable explosiveness that matches their pedigrees.

Wilder Jr. is the son of a former NFL running back who spent 10 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wilder Sr. rushed for 37 career touchdowns and made one Pro Bowl. Wilder Jr. has the build of an NFL running back at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds and was the 11th overall recruit in 2010, per Rivals. After making a minimal impact in 2011, Wilder Jr. stormed onto the scene and displayed the ability most hoped when he was named one of the top recruits in the country. He is strong, fast, shifty and stays low to the ground for someone his size. His ceiling appears unlimited.

Wilder Jr. does come with character concerns. He has been arrested three times in the last year, but has avoided serious punishment from the Seminoles' coaching staff. He was in major trouble in February 2012, when he was charged with two felonies and temporarily suspended from the team. He was reinstated after reaching a plea deal.

Freeman was a four-star recruit coming out of Miami Central and the 10th running back in the country in 2010. Once the Seminoles landed both Wilder Jr. and Freeman, fans dreamed of an outstanding tandem that would destroy opponents for years to come.

Freeman is a Warrick Dunn. Do FSU fans remember him? He is the last Seminoles back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Freeman, a clone who is nearly impossible to tackle in the open field, is good out of the backfield and should get more looks in this capacity.

The problem with both Wilder Jr. and Freeman is consistency. As the game logs show, the duo struggled in matchups against the stronger run defenses on the schedule. Part of this is experience and should be solved as they become upperclassmen.

Florida State loves rotating its running backs, so it's likely neither will get the bulk of the carries in the fall. Look for Wilder Jr. to be the starter and Freeman to spell him on third downs and other situations. Both probably are good enough to be a primary back on a contending team, but nowadays in college football most backs are unable to survive the wear and tear of a season.

Both are poised for big seasons. As usual, the Seminoles have a relatively weak schedule. Freeman and Wilder can put up huge numbers against weaker squads. How they fare in big-time matchups will determine Florida State's status as a national contender. With EJ Manuel gone and the quarterback situation far from clear, the running game will be crucial to the Seminoles' success.

Freeman and Wilder should eventually form an outstanding one-two punch at running back for the next two years. Good luck defending the pair, ACC.