Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Updated: August 28, 4:00 PM ET
Flush with talent, FSU to rotate RBs
By David M. Hale
Three weeks remain before camp opens for Florida State, and Jimbo Fisher admits he's getting a bit anxious.
For the bulk of his team, it will be a chance to see how far players have come since spring practice. For one key position, it will be the first real competition in nearly a year.
FSU enters camp with plenty of questions at running back, but for the first time since Chris Thompson went down with a back injury against Wake Forest last season, Fisher has his share of potential answers.
Thompson is healthy and ready for full-contact drills when camp opens, Fisher said. The same is true of sophomore Devonta Freeman, who missed spring practice with a lower-back injury of his own.
Sophomore James Wilder Jr., the only potential starting running back to have played in this spring's Garnet and Gold game, ran into legal problems in June and spent nine days in jail for a probation violation. Fisher said the running back will face no further disciplinary actions as a result of his off-field troubles.
Ready to return to the field, Wilder carried 35 times for 160 yards as a freshman last season. Fisher said the sophomore has had an excellent spring, arrests aside.
"He's had a great summer and is working his tail off and doing well," Fisher said.
The reports have been equally reassuring on Freeman and Thompson, according to Fisher. With the addition of freshman Mario Pender, the FSU backfield that finished 102nd in the nation in rushing yards per game in 2011 is pretty flush with talent.
The question now is, can that potential turn into performance when the games begin in September?
Fisher said he's hopeful he'll begin finding answers early in camp, but he's not promising he'll be ready to hand the bulk of the snaps to one running back by the season opener.
In fact, it's entirely possible the starting job could change hands from week to week, depending on who matches up best with the opposition.
"Each of them brings something a little bit different to the table, and that can be good," Fisher said. "In certain game plans, one may be featured more than another."
Thompson's veteran savvy and big-play ability might take precedence one week, while Freeman's pass-catching skills or Wilder's size and strength might be the best option the next.
That's the luxury of the running back-by-committee, Fisher said, but it isn't necessarily the ideal situation.
If all goes well, one of the running backs will take a big step forward, and the decision will be easy.
"If there's one guy that's significantly better, he'll get a lot of the carries and the other guys will supplement," Fisher said.
But Fisher has seen his runners take a beating before. He only needs to look back as far as this spring to see how quickly all that depth can disappear.
So while some clarity in the backfield would be nice, Fisher is happy to settle for having options at the moment.
"It's a long season and those running backs take a pounding," Fisher said. "We have some guys who could (play every down), but if there are other guys deserving of reps, we'll try to keep them as healthy as we can."