SAN JOSE -- San Jose State coach Ron Caragher plans to have Jarrod Lawson and Thomas Tucker share its starting running back job, something that couldn't make the sophomores happier.

The two are often inseparable on the practice field, celebrating after long runs, constantly communicating and sharing first-team repetitions.

"I look at us as we are both part of a first team," said Lawson, a former walk-on from Valley Christian-San Jose who earned a scholarship after last season. "When I'm tired, I know I can count on Thomas and I can trust Thomas to go in there."

The duo combined for 1,126 yards rushing and seven touchdowns last year and added 43 catches for 455 yards and two more scores. They brought much-need production to the position after starter Tyler Ervin sprained his ankle in the opener and missed the rest of the season. Three other running backs suffered injuries.

By the fifth game, Lawson had elevated from fifth-string to starter and Tucker had been switched from a cornerback to a wide receiver who was redshirting to a running back for the first time in his life.

"I came in as DB and wasn't even thinking about playing running back," said Tucker, who never had a single carry during his high school career at Long Beach Poly. "Now I'm at running back and I feel comfortable with me and Jarrod as the 1-2 punch and I feel we're going to make some noise this year."


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They so enjoy sharing the position, they often do interviews as a pair. And with Lawson switching to his high school number of 21 this season and Tucker still sporting No. 3, they've created a combined catch phrase of "3-2-1 boom!"

Their closeness makes the shared role easier and after a season in which the Spartans used up to seven running backs, they both will be needed.

"They have different skill sets, but they both bring things to the table that's going to help the team whenever they're in the game," running backs coach Andrew Rolin said.

"They're both good friends," Rolin added. "We're competitive and they compete. They're always trying to top each other. But we've got great chemistry and they know they can build off each other."

  • Redshirt freshman Nate Velichko, from The King's Academy-Sunnyvale, joined the right guard competition, receiving first-team repetitions Tuesday.

    Keith Bendixen, the projected starter who has had two knee operations in the past 24 months, was banged up in Monday's practice and so the staff gave Velichko a shot. He exited spring as the unofficial sixth man on the offensive line and though the staff recruited him as a tackle, Caragher said he has the athleticism to play guard.

    Bendixen spent the day as the second-team center as Caragher continues to look for a backup to starter David Peterson. He's at least the fourth player to get a look since spring.

  • Starting tight end Billy Freeman still has not practiced this camp as he recovers from foot surgery. Caragher said he was injured toward the end of the spring. He expects the sophomore to play in the Aug. 28 opener against North Dakota and hopes to see him participate in practice in the next 7-10 days.

    For more on San Jose State sports, visit the SpartanCentral blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sjsu. Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.