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Devonta Freeman overshadows James Wilder Jr. in Florida State Seminoles' season opener

Picked off: Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner intercepts a pass intended for Julian Griffin during the second quarter.

Associated Press

Picked off: Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner intercepts a pass intended for Julian Griffin during the second quarter.

TALLAHASSEE — A Florida State freshman running back made a memorable first impression during Saturday's 34-0 season-opening win over Louisiana Monroe. But it wasn't former Plant High standout James Wilder.

Wilder, one of the nation's top recruits, was not one of the four freshmen who saw action at Doak Campbell Stadium. Instead, Wilder watched from the sideline — rarely taking his helmet off and never standing too far from the coaches — as Devonta Freeman carried the load on FSU's first touchdown drive of the second half.

Freeman arrived on campus in the spring, a few months before Wilder, after graduating from Miami Central High in December. He anchored a 14-play, 66-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that put the Seminoles up 24-0. He carried six times for 26 yards, culminating with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.

Perhaps his biggest contribution was an 8-yard catch from EJ Manuel on third and 6 that extended the drive.

"The kid loves to play, and he plays fast," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said of Freeman. "He plays physical, and he's fun to coach. He's a smart young man. He's strong. He's a good football player."

Eight freshmen played in the game, including Freeman, former Davenport Ridge LB Karlos Williams and former Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer TE Nick O'Leary. Former Tampa Catholic standout Christian Green was among the five redshirt freshmen who made their debuts against the Warhawks.

JIMBO BIG ON JONES: Senior RB Ty Jones' stats (five rushes, 9 yards) didn't stand out, but the graduate of Tampa's Middleton High received the call to be in the backfield for the Seminoles' opening drive. Five players shared rushing duties, and none received more than seven carries.

But Fisher said Jones has stood out in the Seminoles' crowded backfield, especially with his pass blocking.

"He really didn't have any big runs, but he ran hard. He blocked," Fisher said. "He was always in the right places. Ty is playing super football. I'm extremely pleased with him."

The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder ran for 527 yards and five touchdowns last season, averaging 6.1 yards a carry.

SACK ATTACK: The Seminoles tallied four sacks against the Warhawks. Last season, they led the nation with 48 overall and 3.4 a game.

BUCKLEY HONORED: Former Seminoles CB Terrell Buckley became the ninth player to have his number retired with a halftime ceremony. Buckley's school records for interceptions in a career (21) and season (12 in 1991) have lasted for two decades.

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@sptimes.com.

Devonta Freeman overshadows James Wilder Jr. in Florida State Seminoles' season opener 09/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 3, 2011 10:53pm]
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