FanPost

Jermaine Thomas: the next Warrick Dunn?

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What can we expect from Jermaine Thomas?  If the performance of past FSU running backs is any indicator, then we can be very optimistic.  I may have had a little too much Kool-Aid tonight, but I think there is something here.

Below is a breakdown of notable 'Nole running backs from the last 20 years or so. (Note:  this is not an all-time FSU ranking.  I've just included a hand-picked sampling, ranked by FR YPA.) I listed their freshman yards-per-attempt (YPA), sophomore yards-per-attempt and the difference, along with their total sophomore season yards.  I'm sure there are others I should have included.  I found all these stats at nolefan.org.

PLAYER FR YPA # ATT SO YPA # ATT FR-SO DIFF YPA SO TOT YDS
Rock Preston 8.6 68 7.1 62 -1.5 440.2
Tiger McMillon 8.4 19 5 116 -3.4 580
Sean Jackson 7.9 54 6.1 63 -1.8 384.3
Warrick Dunn 7.5 68 6.8 152 -0.7 1033.6
Dee Feaster 6.6 50 3 20 -3.6 60
Greg Jones 6.5 41 5.3 134 -1.2 710.2
Sammie Smith 5.9 103 7.2 172 1.3 1238.4
Travis Minor 5.6 112 4.5 191 -1.1 859.5
Lorenzo Booker 5.4 62 5.1 173 -0.3 882.3
Antone Smith 5.2 36 5.2 88 0 457.6
Amp Lee 4.8 61 5.2 158 0.4 821.6
Leon Washington 4.6 60 5.2 74 0.6 384.8
Dexter Carter 4.3 22 5.9 116 1.6 684.4
AVG.         -0.746153846  

I then took the average change in yards-per-attempt (-0.75) and applied that number to Thomas.  (If you limit the list to only those who became starters as Sophomores, the avg. gets a little better: -0.71)  Since Thomas' YPA in his freshman season (2008) was 7.0, this gives him a projected YPA of 6.25 in 2009.  Assuming he gets about 175 carries next year, we can project that Thomas will rack up better than 1,000 yds in 2009 -- 1,094 to be precise.  Our first 1,000 yd. rusher since . . . you know who.  Warrick Dunn.  Have I been drinking too much Kool-Aid?

Consider a few more numbers.  Of all the running backs listed above, Thomas' freshman numbers most resemble Dunn, Feaster (gulp!), Jackson and Preston.  They all had at least 50 attempts as freshmen, and their yards-per-attempt was at least 6.5.  Now of these four, who does Thomas resemble the most on paper?  That's right:  Dunn.

PLAYER FR YPA # ATT SO YPA # ATT FR-SO DIFF YPA SO TOT YDS
Warrick Dunn 7.5 68 6.8 152 -0.7 1033.6
Rock Preston 8.6 68 7.1 62 -1.5 440.2
Sean Jackson 7.9 54 6.1 63 -1.8 384.3
Dee Feaster 6.6 50 3 20 -3.6 60
Jermaine Thomas 7 69 6.25* 175* -0.75* 1093.75*

*Projected

One obvious reason for the similarities is that Thomas, like Dunn, will be the starter as a Sophomore.  One big difference (maybe) is that in 1994 Dunn was running behind 2 All-American linemen:  Patrick McNeil and Clay Shiver.  Will the same be true for Thomas?  We will have to see. 

Now someone like FSUn might not be impressed by YPA.  He thinks a better measure is yards-lost-per-attempt (YLPA).  FSUn has already showed us that Thomas had an eye-popping .14 YLPA in 2008.  How do Dunn, Preston, Jackson and Feaster fare on this metric?

PLAYER YDS LST # ATT FR YLPA YDS LST # ATT SO YLPA FR-SO DIFF YLPA
Jermaine Thomas 10 69 0.14 - - - -
Sean Jackson 8 54 0.15 16 63 0.26 0.11
Rock Preston 16 68 0.23 21 62 0.34 0.11
Dee Feaster 17 50 0.34 10 20 0.5 0.16
Warrick Dunn 28 68 0.41 40 152 0.26 -0.15

Suprisingly, Thomas (comparing freshman seasons) beats them all, even Dunn.  The only FSU RB that can match Thomas' .14 as a freshman (not listed here):  Lorenzo Booker.  That's good company.  So while Thomas may not resemble Dunn in YLPA, the fact that his freshman numbers are better than Dunn's should support my claim that Thomas will be a 1,000-yd. rusher in 2009.

One interesting thing to note, is that while Dunn's YPA declined by .7 in 1994, his YLPA improved by .15!  According to FSUn, this is a notable improvement.  Furthermore, Dunn did this despite going from 3 All-American linemen in '93 (McNeil, Shiver and Juan Laureano) to 2 in '94. 

Now let me be clear:  I am not claiming that Thomas and Dunn have similar styles or resemble each other in any way other than on paper.  I'm just giving some reasons to think that he may perform like Dunn.  If you are still skeptical, there is another excellent reason to think that Thomas will have a big year:  he's the perfect back for our zone blocking scheme.  This was expertly argued by our own FSUn last month.  To read that post, go here.  Here's some great footage of Thomas.

Questions:

1.  Are there any other similarities between Thomas and Dunn?  Between Thomas and other great FSU running backs?
2.  Are there any more interesting conclusions to be mined out of the numbers I've given?
3.  Are there any compelling reasons to think that Thomas won't rush for 1,000 yards in 2009?
4.  What the heck happened to Dee Feaster?

Bonus Photo of Jermaine Thomas and the backs

Jermaine_thomas_and_the_running_backs_medium

From Left:  Avis Commack (Soph Wide Receiver), Tavares Pressley (r.Jr RB), Ty Jones (Soph RB), and Jermaine Thomas (soph RB).

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