The Florida State Seminoles insist they don't have any concerns at tailback. Jimbo Fisher is quick to talk up his corps of backs which features sophomores Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. and senior Chris Thompson as the only proven commodities.
Of course, no coach is going to just openly admit that he's got real concerns about the depth at a position like running back. Especially not coming off a season in which the offense ranked 104th in the country running the ball.
With questions already lingering about the offensive line, even if there is a real concern about depth at tailback, Fisher definitely isn't going to admit in addition to worrying about the guys opening the holes, the Noles are also unsure about the guys running through them.
Frankly, there are is some cause for concern after the team opted to have Mario Pender take a redshirt season to get groin surgery.
Right now of the three proven backs on the roster, both Thompson and Freeman missed the spring with back injuries while Wilder ran into trouble off the field that saw him locked up in a Leon County jail for an alleged violation of probation for several days over the summer.
While outwardly nobody around the program may seem concerned, you get a sense that something is up by virtue of senior fullback Lonnie Pryor's increased workload at tailback.
Pryor has always been a tweener that isn't purely a tailback or a fullback, but whenever the depth chart gets thin it's number 24 that is typically asked to go take more carries.
"He's going to play tailback and he was anyways in our one back stuff," said Fisher about Pryor seeing more touches. "When he's like he is now in that 225-227 pound range that's really what he is. We will definitely get him some work."
Pryor has trimmed down and gotten back to his sophomore playing weight this offseason, that's convenient because his increased role as a ballcarrier may now be less a luxury and more a necessity given what else is on the roster right now.
"Yeah I lost a lot of weight over the spring so I feel I can do both," Pryor said about playing tailback in addition to fullback. With just Pender and Wilder healthy during spring practice Pryor saw more carries then too.
"In the spring I showed the coaches I could do both so whenever they need me there I'm more than welcome to go there."
Meanwhile Devonta Freeman appears to be healthy again and has been out at practice getting his share of reps thus far. Freeman excited fans last season with glimmers of his running ability and field vision, but back injuries can plague a player long-term and it remains to be seen whether the issues that held him out of spring will come back to plague him throughout 2012.
Thompson looks a lot like his old self, as I've discussed on here before he looks impressive running at practice, Jimbo has said it, his teammates have said it. Just over ten months removed from two fractured vertebrae Thompson almost looks like he never missed a beat.
"Yesterday, one of the first plays we ran, we ran a zone and he made this jump-cut and you could tell he's back. You could tell he's back to the Chris [we know]," said Pryor.
But so far that's been in just shoulder pads, without full contact and that's where the potential hang-up lies. Thompson admits he's still thinking about getting tackled again for the first time.
"Just getting hit, that's the biggest issue. I looked back at the game against Wake Forest again last week before we started practice," said Thompson. "Just getting tackled again, that's the biggest issue that's on my mind to be honest."
That leaves Wilder, who is healthy and an absolute animal in terms of his size and athleticism, but without assurances from the other two backs, it's obvious why Pryor and even Debrale Smiley have seen reps at tailback so far this season.
It's early and Florida State is hopeful both Freeman and Thompson will not suffer any setbacks as they recover from their back issues, but Florida State is still thin at tailback boasting just three experienced backs and Pryor.
One more injury could be catastrophic to a rushing attack that already struggled in 2011.