The running back position may be the most important skill position on this year’s Florida State Seminoles team. Last year saw the reemergence of the running game in the Florida State offense averaging just over 179 yards per game—a vast improvement from years previous.
Antone Smith, who led the team in rushing a year ago, moved on to the NFL after graduating, which would seem to be a cause for concern.
That however is not the case.
The Noles are young and extremely talented at running back this year, and they may end up with the most production at the position since the days of Warrick Dunn. Their backfield is crowded with budding potential this year and Jimbo Fisher, who has a history of using several backs interchangeably, will look to take full advantage it.
So, let’s take a look at the horses in this year’s stable.
Thomas is coming into this season as the clear-cut favorite to win the starting job, if he hasn’t locked down that job already. Thomas saw some solid playing time as a true freshman last year, and he made the most of his opportunities. Thomas only rushed for 482 yards last season (which marked second on the team), but he averaged seven yards per carry and showed off his play making ability.
By the end of the year, Thomas had established himself as a legitimate game changing type of player and as one of the most exciting freshmen in the ACC as he displayed his tackle breaking ability and breakaway speed. He is certainly the most complete back at FSU since Leon Washington, and he is set for a break out performance this year. Look for Thomas to put up impressive numbers this year—I’m predicting over 1,000 yards, and for him to be one of the best backs in all of the ACC.
Jones is another talented, young back. As a true freshman last year he saw limited playing time but that was not due to lack of skill. Jones impressed the coaches in practice last year, so much so that he was at one point ahead of Jermaine Thomas on the depth chart.
Jones, however, spent the majority of the year sidelined with an injury and illness. Last year Jones was diagnosed with diabetes after inexplicably losing weight and struggling with fatigue. By the end of the year Jones was back in full health and showed off his potential in the Noles’ bowl game. He has quickness and power and now with a full year under his belt look for Jones to contribute solid playing time this year.
Pressley was one of the highest ranked Juco running backs in the recruiting world a year ago, and when the Noles inked him on signing day they anticipated him to play a big role in the ’08 season. Pressly’s skills were so highly touted that, as the story goes, LaGarrett Blount—another highly touted Juco running back who had signed with FSU days prior to Pressley—decommitted out of anticipation of finding himself below Pressley on the depth chart.
Well, as the story turned out, Pressley blew his knee out within days of stepping on the practice field and Blount ended up at Oregon where he put together an incredibly productive year.
Fast-forward a year: Pressley is fully recovered from his injury and looks ready to live up to his recruiting hype. He is a physical runner with great speed, and if he can stay healthy expect him to play a big role in the Noles’ offense this year as he and Jones battle for the second position behind Thomas.
Other Backs of Note
Pryor comes in as a true freshman this year. He was one of the best backs out of the state of Florida this past year and garnered high praise in the national recruiting world. He is a bigger back who has already shown himself in practices thus far as one of the most physically developed, and physical runners, freshmen running backs FSU has had in a while.
As of late he has gotten more reps in practice due to some nagging injuries to the returning backs, but if the Noles can help it Pryor can hopefully watch from the sidelines and mature through a redshirt season.
Thompson was the other running back signed in FSU’s 2008 recruiting class. Thompson is quick footed, juke and jive, scat back type of runner that FSU is known for having. He is said to be game breaking type of player, who on any given down can take the ball to the house. There is a lot of speculation as to what his role could be this year.
Some think he will find playing time this year as a potential slot receiver or third down back or possibly even be used in the same way Percy Harvin (insert fart noise) was used at Florida (again, insert fart noise). Thompson would do well to red shirt, but he simply may be too electric to stash away until next year.
If he sees the field this year I expect solid contributions with some exciting, big play moments. He’ll be fun to watch.
In summary, the Noles are stacked at the running back position, for this season and many to come. Jermaine Thomas will get the majority of the carries and assert himself as one of the premier backs in the ACC, possibly in all of the NCAA, but look for the rest of the staff to contribute as well.
I know it may be hard for FSU fans to give in to the hype surrounding a FSU back given past history (see the past eight or nine years of below average results), but if you’re doubting Thomas be prepared to become a believer.
The Noles running game will explode this year and Thomas will be leading the charge. “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!”