The struggles of Florida State's offense have been well published over the past few seasons. The entire unit has not produced on the field, especially at the running back position. Last year when Antone Smith was injured Preston Parker stepped in admirably as he was able to make plays from the running back position. Smith came back off of his injuries to have a sensational game against Kentucky in the bowl game, leading to the hopes that he can build upon that game going into his final season at FSU. The battle this spring is going to be who'll be the back-up to Smith. With an infusion of talent from the 2008 class there are a few candidates who can come in and share carries with Antone, and one of them is talented enough that he may play a major roll in 2008.
Antone Smith is the starter and is fully expected to enter and leave camp in that role. Smith was highly regarded coming out of high school and is considered as one of the best high school running backs in Florida high school history. He's yet to find that success at the collegiate level, but he may be primed for a good season in 2008. He's worked on his flexibility in the off-season and is coming off a good spring. In camp he is expected to face some stiff competition from a few players, so look for his to respond accordingly to that.
Tavares Pressley is the guy heading into camp that coaches and insiders feel will push Smith the most this fall. Pressley just got his academic situation cleared up earlier this week and he's been cleared to start participating with this team on Tuesday. At 6'1" and 214 pounds, Pressley brings the combination of size and speed that the Seminoles and Coach Fisher have been looking for. As a freshman at Monterey CC he had a stellar season as he rushed for 1,211 yards and 23 scores. At El Camino Pressley shared carries with 3 other running backs, but he was able to make the most of his opportunities as he had around 70 carries for 680 yards and 11 scores. Pressley is a legitimate homerun threat who is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. It's up to how quickly he learns the system this fall. It's important to remember he played quarterback until moving to running back in college, so he has the capability to get a system down rather quickly.
Jermaine Thomas is a candidate for most underrated recruit for the 2008 recruiting class. Thomas fits the mold that Jimbo Fisher looked for in his tailbacks at LSU as he comes into FSU at 6' and 195 pounds. Thomas has great speed, balance and superb feet. His vision is an excellent fit for what FSU is trying to do with their rushing attack. In space, there are few who're as dangerous and Jermaine. That fact, combined with his versatility as a guy who can come out of the backfield and line-up in the slot, is why many people feel he'll see time on the field as a freshman.
There are two dark horses in this race. One is Marcus Sims. The junior running back has moved back and forth from tailback to fullback to an H-back type role. Whenever he looks like he'll be getting more involved in the offense Sims sometimes gets hurt. With Joe Surratt coming back and Seddrick Holloway at the fullback position, Sims may get a chance to play at his more natural position of tailback. When healthy, Sims is a big bruiser who can get the tough yards and move the chains.
The other player who could make a case for playing time is the little known Carlton "Ty" Jones. Jones wasn't a highly recruited player because of his grades, but once he achieved a qualifying score many schools came hard after him. Jones is already bigger than the other tailbacks on the roster as he is 5'11" and 220 pounds. At Middleton Jones faced tough competition but was able to rush for over 1,200 yards and 16 scores. It's a common theme with the other players at running back, but Jones too is an excellent player in the passing game when he comes out of the backfield. Like Sims, Jones is more of a bruising back who'll gain the 3rd and 3's. He also has the potential to take it the house.
This is the most talent Florida State has had at the running back spot since they had Greg Jones, Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker in the backfield. The one knock on this group is the experience factor. Other than Smith and Sims (who may still be a fullback), none of the other players have a Division 1 carry to their name. Pressley's faced collegiate level competition on the JUCO level so he's a guy who'll make a smooth transition if all goes to plan. History shows that running back is a position that kids can come in very early in their careers and make an instant impact. Both Thomas and Jones do have the potential to do that, hence the reason why there is going to be a battle for that second spot on the depth chart.
Pressley, Thomas and Jones all will be learning a new system so whoever gets it down the quickest will have the early advantage as camp goes on. NoleDigest feels that the two best will be slated as guys who'll see action in the fall, while the other most likely takes a redshirt this season. It's vital for FSU that they have three or four solid players on the depth chart because Antone Smith has yet to show he can be a guy who can stay healthy.
With Marcus Sims as an option there is no need to have 5 guys available to play. He is very similar to Jones, thus we feel Carlton is the most likely candidate to take the redshirt in 2008.
Winner: NoleDigest predicts that Tavares Pressley will secure the #2 spot on the depth chart heading into the opener versus Western Carolina. He brings and added dimension the offense has been missing (think Preston Parker with more speed). Also, we feel Jermaine Thomas is going to be used in situations and utilized in space; therefore he'll be among the top 3 or 4 on the depth chart when the season starts.