TALLAHASSEE — When it comes to freshman TB Jermaine Thomas, Florida State coaches and players alike have raved since August about his vision, quickness, deceptive strength and promise for the future.
Their talk now includes production.
Heck. It begins there these days.
Thomas, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder from Jacksonville First Coast, was one of the bright spots in Saturday's last-minute loss at Georgia Tech, rushing nine times for a career-high 130 yards.
"I was just out there playing football," he said.
Yes, but it was against a team now ranked 33rd in the nation in run defense. It also came a week after he suffered a concussion (which he insisted was no big deal because he deals with migraines a couple of times a month).
And he's just a freshman. Consider: The Seminoles haven't had many impact freshmen at that position. With 343 yards (on 41 attempts), he's seventh in school history among freshmen.
"We're going to expect big things from him for the next couple of years," QB Christian Ponder said, "and the rest of this year as well."
And don't forget Thomas missed more than a week in August when his transcript was questioned.
"It hurt me," he said of that time in limbo. "I was crying. I was praying. Everything got corrected. But I wasn't in practice, and you learn so much in one day, that week or two. I felt like I lost a lot and didn't know anything. So when I came back out, I had to start all over. I started out a little rusty but got back into the swing of things."
"He's a very intelligent young man, and he's a very conscientious young man," offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. "He works extremely hard at the game. You have some players, when they leave the practice field, they don't think about ball until they come back the next day. He's not one of those guys. He continually strives to get better, and he thinks about it off the field."
Thomas is trying to learn from star senior TB Antone Smith.
"I really look up to him," he said. "He teaches me a lot every day."
Mainly in how vital it is fto master the playbook so he doesn't have to think about what to do and simply do what he's done so well — run the football.
"That's the only thing that can keep him off the field, not knowing his assignments," Smith said. "He's getting his assignments down better, paying attention to detail, and it's paying off for him big time."
"I can see that we need to get Jermaine (in the game more)," added coach Bobby Bowden.
That's not a knock on Smith. He's having one of his best seasons (575 yards and 11 touchdowns). But he's banged up. Sore ribs limited him last week and could do so again Saturday against Clemson.
"He needs some rest," Bowden said of Smith.
"I feel much better about that right now."
Looking to avoid history: FSU has lost three straight to Clemson, but it has never lost four in a row to an ACC rival since joining the league in 1992. Of course, FSU didn't lose four ACC games total until it lost to North Carolina State in 2001.
Oh, by the way, Wake Forest now has a three-game winning streak against the Seminoles and will go for No. 4 next year.
Special day: Bowden turns 79 on Saturday and is 4-1 on his birthday with four games while at FSU: a win against Virginia Tech in 1980, a win against South Carolina in 1986, a win against North Carolina in 1997 and a loss against Clemson in 2003.
Poll watching: The Seminoles slid to No. 24 in the Associated Press poll (and the coaches' version, for that matter) after Saturday's loss. But they're ranked for the third straight week, something they haven't done since the first five weeks of 2006.
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.