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Thursday, April 4, 2013
Complements in competition

By Mitch Sherman
ESPN RecruitingNation

Dalvin Cook, Joseph Yearby
Miami Central running backs Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby, also known as Thunder and Lightning, will play together -- maybe for the last time -- in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game.

LenDale White and Reggie Bush, they are not.

Miami Central running back Joseph Yearby stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 191 pounds. Backfield mate Dalvin Cook is 5-foot-11, 187 pounds. From the outset of their careers at the reigning Class 6A titlist in Florida, coaches, teammates and fans have called them Thunder and Lightning.

To be clear, Yearby provides the thunder. The ESPN Watch List prospect and Miami commit rushed for 1,448 yards and 20 touchdowns last fall as a junior, including 125 and a pair of scores in the state title game against Gainesville High.

Cook, the lightning, gained 1,452 yards and scored 21 touchdowns last year.

"We motivate each other to get better every day," said Cook, pledged to Clemson and another Watch List selection.

Both backs remain open about their college choices. They want to take official visits together.

"We've talked about it," Yearby said, "going to the same school."

Yearby and Cook form one of the best running back tandems in Florida prep history. They largely devise their own playing rotation. Their connection is unique.

"Those guys feed off each other," Central assistant head coach AJ Snipes said. "We really don't sub them. They sub each other. If one of them is running well, the other guy wants him in the game.

"It's good to have two great backs, but it's better to have two unselfish guys."

Joseph Yearby
Joseph Yearby, pictured, and Dalvin Cook are pledged to different schools, but that could change.

Next January, the pair is set to play together in the Under Armour All-America Game, one of two pairs of teammates among the first group of names unveiled Thursday to participate in the premier postseason event.

From New Orleans Edna Karr, wide receiver Speedy Noil and defensive end Gerald Willis have also accepted invitations.

Yearby and Cook, though, figure to fight for carries in the UA Game. It'll be nothing new.

From the beginning, former Central coach Telly Lockette -- recently hired to coach running backs at South Florida -- told Cook and Yearby they'd go further together than apart.

"We had a connection because we were both workers," Cook said. "We just kept pushing each other. He'll pound them down and down, and then I'll come in and break one for 90."

Yearby and Cook said they're closer off the field than on it.

"Joe's been a great friend from day one," Cook said. "And he's a great person, a guy who will make it a long way."

The admiration is mutual.

"I had a lot of respect for him as soon as we met," Yearby said. "He's a very quiet guy. Doesn't get in trouble. He's the kind of guy who's going to be successful."

Classmates and fans expected them to battle over rushing attempts.

Snipes said he often hears suggestions that one of them wants to leave Central to play a featured role elsewhere.

"They just laugh," the coach said. "It was a good marriage for both of them to be together."

On their running style, Snipes described Yearby as "a bruiser without being a bruiser."

"He can take the contact, but he can get yards in other ways, too," Snipes said. "When a lot of backs might get two yards, he'll slither through and get you 8, 9, 10. Then the next time, he might come in and put his nose down."

Cook can do the same thing, but he's more of a home run threat.

"He's got the speed," said Yearby, who takes regular snaps at quarterback. "But without him, I don't know if I would have run for all the yards I have."

Yearby switched his pledge from Florida State to Miami in February. Cook has remained committed to Clemson since last June, though he recently took an unofficial visit to Florida.

The Gators rate high for Cook, along with USC -- former home of White and Bush, the memorable Thunder and Lightning duo from 2003 to 2005. Yearby, who has been offered by Alabama, said he likes the Trojans, too, and that he and Cook hope to visit USC together.

Yearby said he wants to get a look at life on the West Coast. Inner-city Miami has provided a tough setting for both backs. They're stronger because of it, Snipes said.

They knew of each other at a young age but never played together until Cook joined the football team as a sophomore in 2011. If this is their last year together on the field, both backs said they'll enjoy it.

Then again, maybe they'll move forward as teammates.

"It might happen," Cook said. "We talk about it every day."