Spring Stock Report: Running Back

Now that spring drills are in the rearview mirror for Florida State and the annual Garnet and Gold Game has been played, it's time to analyze the Seminoles position by position. Today? Running back.

Projected Starters: Devonta Freeman, Lonnie Pryor
Notable Backups: Chris Thompson, James Wilder, Mario Pender, Chad Abram, Debrale Smiley, Eric Beverly

The Skinny: Florida State has a lot of talent in the backfield, although not a lot of it was put on display during the spring since Freeman was shelved with a bad back, Thompson battled both back and hand injuries and Wilder was suspended from team activities for a while because he was facing a felony charge -- the 6-2, 220-pounder eventually pled no contest to a misdemeanor and returned to the practice field. As a result, coach Jimbo Fisher used Pryor and Smiley, a pair of senior fullbacks, at the tailback spot, and each looked pretty good after losing a few pounds in the offseason. Pender, an early enrollee with unlimited upside, got his feet wet and is now ahead of the rest of his freshman skill-position players, similar to Freeman a year ago.

Stock Up: Pryor's numbers were down as a junior in 2011, as the Okeechobee native registered career lows with 74 yards rushing, 2.7 yards per carry, six receptions, 61 yards receiving and three total touchdowns, but he ran five times for 24 yards and a TD in the spring game and also reeled in a pair of passes for 25 more yards. If Wilder can't get the job done in short-yardage and goal-line situations, which was the case on more than one occasion this past season, Pryor is more than capable of dotting the "I" at a slimmer 229 pounds.

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Stock Flat: Pender could end up being the primary ball carrier in 2012 for the Seminoles, as nobody on the roster has truly distinguished himself as a bellcow and the Cape Coral product offers the best combination of power and speed, but he didn't arrive in Tallahasee and simply dominate. He rushed 10 times in the spring game for just 13 yards and caught two passes for only 12 yards, plus his longest gain on the ground or through the air was a run-of-the-mill 6-yarder.

Stock Down: Thompson failed to put his trademark burst on display a year ago, likely due to the fact that he missed a lot of practice time with a herniated disc in his back, and then he was sidelined for the rest of the campaign when he broke said back Oct. 8 at Wake Forest. While the popular senior was able to participate in spring drills to the amazement of the team's training staff, he wore a blue no-contact jersey more often than not and then still found a way to break his hand the first week.

Fall Wish List: Freeman doesn't become Thompson 2.0 with his back issues, Wilder solves the maddening third-and-1 puzzle and Pender provides the home-run threat that was missing last season.

Spring Stock Reports: QB  |  RB  |  WR  |  TE  |  OL  |  DT  |  DE  |  LB  |  CB  |  S

John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

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