Cam Akers was hurting, the rushing lanes were narrow and yards were tough to come by.
That was a year ago. Now?
Healthy, physical, breaking tackles and falling forward.
Akers has run 98 times for 499 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. If he keeps up this pace – which is punishing and likely not realistic – he would have 1,497 rushing yards. And that would be more than double his rushing total from last fall (706).
But it’s already been a productive four-game stretch as he has six rushing TDs and two receiving TDs, which matches his 12-game total from 2018. Akers says he sees a different version of himself when he watches film of the first four games compared to last fall.
“I think I have a chip on my shoulder,” Akers said. “I put in a lot of work in the film room, trying to know what the offensive linemen are doing, knowing the scheme, working on my patience, just a collective unit of things.”
What’s impressive about Akers’ performance so far is that he’s not losing yards. On 98 carries he has only lost 24 yards. He’s pushing forward, picking up yards after contact and, when he falls, picks up another yard or more before being taken down. Falling forward is all about “trying to get every crumb.”
Akers has praised his offensive line, which appears to have made some progress from a year ago. Among the areas he has worked on are learning patience and having confidence in what the linemen in front of him will do.
“Just being decisive, being patient,” Akers said. “Trusting the blocks and knowing the scheme, knowing what the linemen are doing, knowing who they are trying to get to (block) and trusting.”
Akers said he didn’t expect this many carries but is prepared for the workload each Saturday. And Akers has done the hard work:
He leads the ACC in rushing yards and is tied for the league lead in rushing TDs. His 499 rushing yards and eight touchdowns put him fourth nationally.
He is ninth in the FBS in rushing yards per game (124.8) and fourth among Power 5 running backs.
He is 11th nationally in all-purpose yards per game.
A year after there were questions about Akers – Was he injured? Was he committed to fighting on each carry? – Akers is just a few yards from FSU’s all-time top-10 list in career rushing yards. Yes, in just 29 games.
Akers has 2,229 career rushing yards, just a few good runs away from Devonta Freeman and Atone Smith (they are tied at ninth at 2,255).
In Saturday’s win over Louisville, Akers had 29 carries for 115 yards. It’s notable that he had so many rushes, consistently fell forward and only lost three yards on the day.
“Cam ran the ball hard,” FSU coach Willie Taggart said. “I thought he ran it really hard in the second half when we needed him to. Some of the tackles that he broke was big for us. He was just fighting for first down. Again, I think we all seen that out of Cam all year long. He’s doing what we expected him to do, and we need him to continue to that.”
A year after wondering about Akers, the junior has elevated his play. He has gone from a question mark about what he could bring to the table to a player who has brought effort, toughness and production.
And it’s something that has rubbed off on teammates.
“I love seeing Cam run the ball like that,” receiver Tamorrion Terry said. “It opens it up for all the wideouts and for us to make plays too. … We just love to block for him and celebrate with Cam. We just love seeing him run the ball like that.”
Cam Akers in 2019
vs. Boise – 15 carries, 116 yards gained, 0 yards lost
vs. ULM – 36 carries, 209 yards gained, 16 yards lost
At Virginia – 18 carries, 83 yards gained, 5 yards lost
vs. Louisville – 29 carries, 115 yards gained, 3 yards lost
Totals – 98 carries, 499 yards, 6 touchdowns