FSU running backs hope brotherly bond transfers to field

July, 1, 2009
7/01/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Florida State running backs Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones will be competing for carries this summer and fall, but as roommates, they've developed a friendship that seems will only encourage their progress together.

 
  Dale Zanine/US Presswire
  Jermaine Thomas, who finished last season with 482 yards, is the Noles' leading returning rusher.

On Tuesday nights, they head out for wings, and when they stay in, Thomas has learned that Jones is a pretty good cook. In return for a few "four-course meals," Thomas makes sure Jones, who is a diabetic, takes his medicine and keeps his blood sugar up. They've learned to take care of each other.

"It feels like a family," Thomas said. "It's a bond that we've built and we look out for each other. I couldn't ask for a better roommate."

Teammate Tavares Pressley lives about four houses down, and they've become a close-knit group ready to take on the challenge of leading Florida State's offense. With so many questions surrounding the wide receivers, and a talented offensive line that returns four starters, it would hardly be a surprise to see the Noles depend heavily on their running game this fall.

FSU had the No. 33 rushing offense in the country last season, but two of the top four ball carriers were quarterbacks Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson. Thomas, who finished with 482 yards and three touchdowns on 69 carries, is the team's leading returning rusher.

"I think the running game is going to be a lot better," Thomas said. "It might be the face of the offense. I just think because of the bond me and Ty have with each other and also Tavares Pressley is coming along too from that knee injury, we all have a bond and we treat each other like brothers. We know we have to compete against each and all three of us want to be the best. Us all wanting to have that starting position, it's just going to make us work even harder and want to learn the offense. And the offensive line, I don't think nobody worked as hard as the offensive line. They seemed to be really dedicated. We're just trying to do our part and be counted on when it's time."

Pressley, Jones and Thomas will be responsible for helping to replace Antone Smith's 177 carries and 15 rushing touchdowns from 2008. Without quarterbacks in the equation, Smith's 117 carries accounted for almost 55 percent of the running plays last year. As a true freshman, Thomas was introduced quickly with an average of seven yards per carry on 69 attempts. He finished behind only Sean Jackson and Warrick Dunn for the most yards per carry by a true freshman. Jones showed his potential in the Champs Sports Bowl, when he rushed four times for 55 yards and a touchdown.

One of Thomas' best attributes last season was his ability to constantly get positive yardage. He only lost 10 yards rushing all year.

"I learned a lot," Thomas said. "The game experience, how to run certain plays, ... knowing I have to be more comfortable when I'm in the game. Antone Smith taught me a lot. He told me, 'If it's something you love, you don't have no problem doing it and you're destined to do it, so just go out there and be dedicated.' I just listened to him."

The staff also has high expectations for Pressley, who redshirted in 2008 after suffering an ACL injury in his left knee. He wasn't cleared for full participation this spring, but has begun to get some of his speed back and will be ready for summer camp.

"The guy everybody keeps forgetting about," said offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, "Tavares Pressley is back. Tavares is a heck of a player. Tavares is 4.4 220 pounds. He has great hands and can do things."

It's still a young, inexperienced group, but they've learned they're pretty productive when they stick together. And it could take all three of them to build upon last year's success.

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