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2008 Preview: The Running Backs

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Ok, training camp is in a few short weeks and I need to get myself in gear as we prepare for the start of another exciting season.

 

The running game is going to be the key to success for the Seminoles this year. The offensive line is still a work in progress but they will be better and tougher this year so the running backs have to produce.

 

Overview: The running game at FSU has been, at best, disappointing since around 2003. Most of that can be blamed on the troubles up front but to be fair the running backs, Lorenzo Booker and now senior Antone Smith, haven’t helped much. Smith’s production in 2007 can be broken down into two different seasons – the first half where he didn’t get much outside of two 40+ runs against Clemson and Colorado respectively and the second half of the season when Smith gained over a 100 yards in three of his final six games, most notably a 17 carry, 156-yard performance in the Music City Bowl against Kentucky.

The only other returning rusher with any sort of statistics is Preston Parker and we’ll get to him in the receivers portion.

 

2008 Signees: Tavares Pressley, a JuCo All-American from El Camino Community College by way of Desoto County, Florida, was the big signing for Jimbo Fisher’s offense. Late in the year Fisher was able to add 6-foot, 218-pounder Carlton Jones from Tampa Middleton and highly-versatile Jacksonville prep star Jermaine Thomas. All three players bring something completely different to the table.

 

(Note: FSU also signed Georgia prospect Debrale Smiley but he did not qualify for the fall season).

 

Starting Experience: Smith has over a dozen starts and Parker started two games at the position last season.

 

Playing Experience: Seddrick Holloway is the fullback and is utilized for blocking mostly, occasionally he’s good at it. Smith’s touchdown against Alabama was thanks to a terrific lead block from Holloway. Marcus Sims has also received occasional touches but been hampered by injuries.

 

Spring: With Smith taking it easy during the spring it gave redshirt freshman Brandon Paul the opportunity to play in the backfield a bit. Results for Paul were mixed as his speed and burst are a nice change of pace but there are questions about his ability to take the pounding that a running back takes and his ability to run in between the tackles. So Paul remains a player without a position (psst…play him at cornerback).

 

What to Look For: I believe Smith is primed for a 1,000-yard season if he’s healthy, if he isn’t watch for Pressley (if he makes it on campus, which he should by the end of the month) to be the next guy in line with Sims being used primarily for short yardage and either Jones or Thomas taking a redshirt although Thomas could be moved to receiver or find his way on the field as a third-down back. Many people believe that Pressley will assume the reins from Smith at some point during the season, but if Smith holds to the form he showed in the second half of the season I don’t see it happening. Nonetheless the running back competition will be among the most interested and heated during training camp.