Only two running backs had 100-yard rushing games against the Boise State defense in 2018.
One of those was Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill, who has a similar style to the tailback Boise State will face in its season opener against Florida State on Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida (5 p.m. MT, ESPN).
Junior Cam Akers was one of the most sought-after recruits in the country when he joined the Seminoles in 2017. The five-star recruit, a native of Clinton, Mississippi, was ranked the No. 7 player in the nation that year and No. 1 running back by 247Sports.com. He ran for 1,024 yards as a freshman, breaking FSU’s freshman record, previously held by Dalvin Cook.
“He’s a big, fast, physical back. I think he’s about 212, 215, but he’s fast,” Boise State safety DeAndre Pierce said. “Don’t let that weight or size fool you, he’s rolling downhill. Once he gets about two, three steps in, he’s going hard and he’s running either by people or through people.
“He’s really a great back, kind of just like last year when we played Justice Hill, two very similar backs in the speed and power that they bring, so another good challenge for us to start off.”
Hill collected 123 yards on the ground — including a 53-yard burst in the fourth quarter — in Oklahoma State’s 44-21 victory over Boise State on Sept. 15, 2018, in Stillwater. His 8-yard touchdown run with 12:08 left in the second quarter ignited the scoring for OSU. Hill, a junior at the time, was taken in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
The Seminoles’ veer and shoot offense, headed by Kendal Briles, attacks opposing defenses with the pass in order to set up a big run. That’ll be Akers’ anticipated role against the Broncos, and he’s more than capable of producing big plays.
Although the 5-foot-11, 212-pounder had only 706 rushing yards as a sophomore, he tied for fourth in the ACC and 14th nationally with three 50-yards runs in 2018. As a freshman, Akers became just the second Seminole in school history to rush for two TDs of longer than 50 yards in the same game.
“That guy’s got some speed and some power behind him,” Boise State defensive tackle David Moa said. “Once he finds a gap, he’s going to hit it hard and 11 dawgs definitely gotta get to him.”
Akers already ranks 18th in Florida State history with 1,730 career rushing yards. He has 13 career rushing touchdowns, and he also has 39 receptions for 261 yards and three more scores. He played quarterback in high school — passing for 8,140 yards and 78 touchdowns and rushing for 5,103 yards and 71 scores — and has attempted one pass in each of the past two seasons with the Seminoles.
First-year Boise State defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding summed up Akers as a “complete back.”
“All I can say is, don’t blink. Please don’t blink. You might miss something. He’s been working very hard, put in a lot of work,” Florida State quarterback James Blackman told the Orlando Sentinel. “I feel like he’s ready to go, he’s got a chip on his shoulder, and he knows the guy that he can be, the potential he has, and I feel like he’s ready to show it.”
The Broncos know Akers and the rest of the Seminoles will be looking to redeem themselves from a disappointing 2018 season, which ended with a losing record and no bowl berth for the first time in 36 years. Akers has expressed in preseason interviews his desire to live up to the expectations the Seminoles had for him when he signed.
“Everybody’s got a chip on their shoulder,” Akers told the Tampa Bay Times. “We just want to go win, get back to Florida State football and show everybody what we came here to do.”