It’s an oft-debated topic: What college football program is Running Back U?
Just like the WRU or DBU banter, more than a handful of colleges have worthy arguments in the discussion. Auburn and Florida State are both, at a minimum, factors in the conversation.
The Tigers have an impressive streak of 1,000-yard rushers. The Seminoles have had Devonta Freeman and Dalvin Cook in recent memory and just brought in one of the most impressive running back hauls — Cam Akers and Khalan Laborn — in the 2017 class.
In the 2018 cycle, it appears the two programs will be direct foes.
Florida State has two running backs committed in the class. Auburn has none.
Charles Strong and James Cook, close friends, have been committed to the Seminoles for more than a year. Both are showing signs of reconsideration on their Florida State commitments. Both are showing love to Auburn.
Cook is a 5-star prospect and the brother of Dalvin, who is fresh off a record-setting career with the Seminoles. But Cook has made it clear he doesn’t plan to follow in his brother’s footsteps just to follow in his brother’s footsteps. He hasn’t even ruled out Florida (quite the contrary, in fact).
Despite his Florida State pledge, Cook released a top-8 list that includes Auburn. Cook told SEC Country’s Zach Abolverdi that he’s “80 percent committed” to the Seminoles, which is generally a surefire indication of second-guessing.
Auburn isn’t the RBU-level school on the list. The Tigers are joined on the list by Alabama, LSU, Oregon, Southern Cal, Florida and Georgia — all programs in the RBU discussion. He plans to take several visits. Auburn likely will be one of those this summer.
A big part of that decision to visit? Cook trusts his close friend Strong, who recently was blown away by his unofficial trip to the Plains.
“I like Auburn. Talking to coaches, talking to Kodi Burns on the phone. He’s sitting here telling me, ‘Our school is the top.’ He kept telling me to come over to see it. If you like it, it’s all yours. If I don’t, he’ll keep recruiting me,” Strong said. “But I like it. No, I love it. … Coach [Tim] Horton told me how he loves big backs, so he wants to coach me to the fullest.”
Because of the friendship between Strong and Cook, Strong has developed a bond with Dalvin, too.
In fact, that’s whom Strong often reaches out to for advice. For instance, when he started to show some hesitation with his FSU commitment, many Seminoles fans he knows gave him every reason why he shouldn’t waver. Dalvin took a different approach.
“Some people don’t want me to look into a lot of schools; some people want me to stay with Florida State. At the end of the day, it’s up to me. I’m going to do my visits to see how it turns out. Talking with legends like Dalvin. He told me I’m one of the top running backs in the nation. Florida State has always got you, but go where it fits for you,” Strong said. “He ain’t my brother, but he was a real close friend recruiting me, so he wants what’s best for me.”
According to the 247Sports composite rankings, Cook is the No. 3 running back in the nation, which makes him a slightly more coveted commodity than Strong. Strong is a 3-star prospect who is No. 29 at his position in 2018. He holds other offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Miami, Kentucky and Georgia Tech.
It should be clear: Both remain Florida State pledges.
As for Strong, at least, a flip isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
“I’m committed. I want to say that first,” Strong said. “But it’s possible. I don’t know what it would take. But it’s possible.”