In 2015, Cook led the ACC in rushing yards with 1,691 and total touchdowns with 20. He also broke the single season Seminole record for rushing yards and all-purpose yards, and he did this with multiple injuries throughout the season. His mix of size, speed and explosiveness makes him one of the most dangerous weapons in college football. So how can Ole Miss stop him?
If you look at the wins against Alabama and LSU, both teams had questions at quarterback and relied heavily on running back play. The Rebels beat Alabama by penetrating the backfield and getting to Henry as soon as he received the ball. This prevented the Heisman winner from explosive runs up the middle. A healthy dose of blitzes not only limited Henry but also put pressure on quarterback Cooper Bateman. Ole Miss flustered LSU's quarterback Brandon Harris while sealing the edges to prevent Fournette from getting huge outside runs.
Florida State's quarterback depth took a hit recently with potential starter Sean Maguire suffering a foot injury that will most likely sideline him against Ole Miss. With Maguire out redshirt freshman Deondre Francois is expected to start for the Seminoles. While Francois is talented, he will be starting in his first college football game against a talented Ole Miss defensive line. If the Rebels can fluster Francois, similar to Bateman and Harris, they can make the Seminoles rely heavily on Cook. Using the same tactics to stop Fournette and Henry, Ole Miss can use its linebackers to control the edges, while using its defensive linemen to attack the gaps. If all goes as planned, Cook will be limited in the Sept. 5 season opener.
It all sounds easier than it actually will be. What if Cook still finds a way to get past a Rommel Mageo or a young defensive back on the outside for a long touchdown run? What if he breaks away from a Myles Hartsfield tackle for a huge gain? Ole Miss will have to play smart and disciplined against Cook. There will be no room for missed tackles or failing to take the right angle. Those are the moments that Cook shines and makes defenses pay. His ability cut in the open field is second to none and Ole Miss needs to take Cook down on initial contact. If Florida State's line contains Ole Miss' rushers and Francois finds his way in his debut game, Cook could have a big day to start out the season. The Rebels have one of the toughest tests of the opening week of college football in stopping Dalvin Cook.