With Tavares Pressley on the mend all of spring still recovering from his torn ACL last season, Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones found themselves battling for the stating job at running back. Both proved they can turn in big plays with the ball in their hands, but it was what happened when they weren't toting the rock that had the coaches baffled.
"They look great when they are running the ball," Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. "It's when they don't have the ball, they kill us."
Thomas and Jones had trouble for the most of spring picking up blitzes and making proper reads on release routes and blocks out of the backfield. Towards the end of spring practice, the young duo did improve, with one holding the upper hand.
"They looked better at the end," Fisher said. "Especially 38 (Thomas). But both of them are starting to understand what is expected of them and it better keep going into the fall."
While both backs showed flashes of superstar potential, Thomas had a few more big plays and left the defense scratching their heads at his talent a few times. On one occasion, Thomas took an option pitch out of the backfield and found himself surrounded by three defensive players. Thomas made a cut back to the insides separating himself from all of them and taking the ball 65 yards to pay-dirt.
Thomas possesses a rare combination of speed and elusiveness that make good running back great. He also has shown excellent vision when approaching the line of scrimmage and breaking into the secondary,
Jones is another special talent. He was not heavily recruited during high school because most thought he would not qualify, but he quickly proved all of his doubters wrong. Thomas has good speed and is a power runner. When he approaches defenders, he lowers his pads and is looking to run someone over.
Towards the end of spring practice, Jones banged up his hand and had troubles hanging on to the ball. He fumbled the ball several times towards the end of spring practice and in the Garnet and Gold game which really hurt his stock. He left himself in a hole to dig out of heading into fall.
As of right now, the clear-cut leader to win the starting job is Thomas. If he can continue to progress and develop as a total running back in fall camp, look for him to lock down the starting position and not give it back easily.
Keep in mind Lonnie Pryor and Chris Thompson will come in and battle for reps, and Pressley will be healthy and throw his name in the hat as well. The running back position is definitely one to keep an eye on throughout the summer and heading into the fall.
Leader emerges at RB?
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