This is the 43rd in a series of articles counting down the most important players for Florida State in 2012. There are 14 days until FSU football, and that's how many are left on the list. That means no off days. Oh, and these are not in any specific order.
Chris Thompson | 5'8, 187 | Senior | Running Back
Background (via media guide)
Ranked as the nation's second best all-purpose player coming out of Madison County High School where he was a teammate of defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel...a four-star prospect who earned PrepStar and Under Armour All-American honors...battled ankle injuries throughout his senior season...rushed for 2,300 yards and 33 TDs in leading his team to the state championship...ran for 203 yards and two TDs in the 2007 state championship game...an outstanding high school sprinter who logged a personal-best time of 10.4 in the 100 meter dash as a senior...selected FSU over Miami, Florida and Clemson...born October 20, 1990.
Career to Date
Chris Thompson started his career at FSU in 2009 on a team with a lot of offense and no defense. With older players in front of him, Thompson was rarely called upon to carry the football. Though he was talented enough to earn yards as a true freshman, the majority of the reps were shared by Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones.
In 2010, Thompson was given the opportunity to show that he was a very capable ball carrier. Over the course of the season, Thompson would earn first string snaps. His highlights from the 2010 campaign include 123 yards against BYU, the 90 yard exclamation point in a drubbing of Miami, and some excellent running against a stingy South Carolina defense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Thompson proved to be FSU's home run hitter. His long runs lifted his yards per carry to an excellent 6.36 yards for a total of 846 yards on just 133 attempts.
Fans hoped Thompson could build on his 2011 performance and become the 'Nole's first 1,000 yard rusher since Warrick Dunn in 1996. Even with Jimbo Fisher's propensity to feature two or more backs, the case could be made for Thompson. If his average held, he would have needed just over 24 more carries to reach the 1,000 yard mark. Also consider Thompson carried the ball 6 times or less in 5 games. The argument could be made, with some luck, and great play around him, he could meet that 1,000 yard mark in 2011.
However, none of that happened. Florida State's offensive line was a mash unit plagued by injuries. The chemistry between blockers and runner, so important to a rushing game, had all but evaporated. Thompson headed into the 5th game of the season against Wake Forest with just 81 yards rushing. And of course it only got worse for Thompson. Diving under a tackle, he suffered two broken vertebrae that ended his season. He even contemplated not returning to football (read this, it's excellent).
Despite the work, the pain, and the rehab, Thompson decided to come back to the game he loves. He took his first hit since the Wake Forest game during FSU's recent fall scrimmage. Chris was glad to get the welcome back to football contact under his belt and believes he is healthy.
This year, Thompson enters the season as the first team running back. What fans should expect from him is hard to predict. An injury like the one he suffered can pick at a player's brain. "The pain, the rehab, an even worse injury, just one hit away." Certainly he can learn to take hits better and be more careful, however he can't over think while running the ball.
Thompson needs to work his way back to full speed in the first few games. No need to be a workhorse. He is one of three running backs (4 with Pryor) entering the season looking to take snaps. If Thompson can earn 600 yards rushing and 50-100 yards receiving, fans should be extremely pleased with that production. Perhaps, with some good blocking up front and some home run type plays, he can equal his 2010 campaign. Either way, Thompson is a great 'Nole, great teammate, and everyone will be rooting for him this year.