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2022 FSU Position Preview: Running Backs

Florida State had a solid season on the ground in 2021 rushing for over 2,000 yards with an average of 177.8 rushing yards per game. Their 24.1% explosive run rate was the second highest among all power 5 teams. As good as those numbers sound, there is certainly room for improvement too.

FSU rushed for 199.9 yards per game in 2020 which that number may have been somewhat inflated being they didn’t play a few of the better defenses on their schedule that year due to covid. Over the course of his career (pre-FSU) as an offensive coordinator or head coach, the Norvell offense has averaged 196 rushing yards per game.

New offensive coordinator Alex Atkins served one year in the same position at Charlotte in 2019 just prior to coming to FSU. In that season, Charlotte led the conference in rushing with an average of 203 yards per game. When you take all that into account, the Seminole offense should rush for somewhere around 200 yards per game. Obviously, there are many factors that lead into that, but this is a run heavy offense so that number should be obtainable especially with a dual-threat quarterback adding to the total.

The FSU rushing attack finished 52nd in the country last season, however, if they could get that average up to that which we just talked about they would have finished right around top 25 in rushing offense. One of my main points about the FSU offense so far is how they have yet to meet the career averages of Nike Norvell. I’d think we’re in agreement that Norvell probably didn’t forget how to call an offense just because he moved to Tallahassee and we’re comparing 8 seasons of data to one season plus a disjointed covid year. I tend to think the numbers would eventually trend toward the 8-year average vs the 2 years he has been at FSU.

If they can add the pieces and get production similar to his career averages, they would have one of the better offenses in the conference which is something I found when I ran the numbers.

The Noles are probably going lean heavily on the run game again in 2022. Despite needing to replace leading rusher Jashaun Corbin, FSU does return a good portion of their production from last season in Ward and Toafili. Florida State also added Oregon transfer Trey Benson this offseason, and he certainly looks like he will be a key part of this offense.

However, with no clear RB1 at the moment, it appears FSU will be handling running back duties by committee this season which isn’t always a bad thing. Here’s a look at some of the impact players at running back for FSU this season.

Impact players at runnng back

Treshaun Ward

Treshaun Ward is a solid veteran back with an even better story. He began his career as walk-on and has since ascended to the potential starter this season. As a runner Ward definitely has something to him, and I’d be interested to see what he can do in an expanded role. In limited action last season behind Corbin, he still had a nice season. Treshaun rushed for 546 yards on 83 carries.

At the running back position, he had the highest yards per attempt at 6.6, highest percentage of missed tackles forced (24), and highest percentage of 10+ yard runs (21). He was also the highest graded running back for FSU according to Pro Football Focus with an impressive grade of 84.5. In the pass game he added 20 receptions and 1 touchdown, but maybe more importantly, he also had a pass blocking grade of 81.0 which was highest at the position. 

However, there are still some question marks. Ward has yet to serve as a true RB1 and has not logged a 100-yard game during his career. Of course, you must take into consideration he was splitting reps as he will be this year too.

Treshaun did have his most productive season by far last year and should see a similar or even more expanded role this season with Corbin’s departure. He may not be the type of feature back FSU is used to, but then again not everyone is Dalvin Cook or Cam Akers. He should still have nice season this year and has already been named to the Doak Walker award preseason watch list.

Lawrance toafili

Lawrance Toafili has shown the ability to be a big play back for the Seminoles. I’m sure we all recall they play he made against Clemson last season which just goes to show his athletic potential. He is the type of back that could break one any given play, but we have yet to see consistent production from him.

Toafili has only seen a limited role so far at FSU averaging about 35 carries per season. His 5.1 yards per carry last season was a significant drop-off from his 2020 number of 9.6. He will once again be in a crowded backfield which will limit carries and, in my opinion, will probably be the third back in the rotation.

However, Toafili certainly has the ability to assert himself to the front of the line if he can continue to improve and consistently be the back we’ve seen flashes of in the past. No coach is going to keep a guy who averages almost 10 yards per carry off the field.

Trey Benson

When FSU brought in Trey Benson from Oregon there were a lot of questions why this staff would bring in a running back who just suffered a season ending leg injury. However, those questions were answered rather quickly when Benson hit the field showing what this staff saw in him.

To be fair, before we feed the hype train Benson has basically no stats to provide any guarantee he can produce at a high level in the power 5. Obviously that is due to his injury which is no fault of his own. Stats aside, when you saw his spring game performance and mix that with his size and athletic ability you definitely see the potential.

Not to mention you also get him for multiple years which is nice. So far, he looks like a good addition by this staff and will add talented depth to the running back position. In my opinion, Benson certainly has the potential to become RB1 by seasons end. He has already mentioned his goal is to be the first 1,000 yard rusher for FSU since Cam Akers in 2019.

Remaining depth chart

When you look at the remainder of the depth chart, we’ll start with C.J. Campbell who I felt was going to be able to contribute this year as a talented walk-on. Unfortunately, C.J. suffered a season ending injury in fall camp and I’d like to wish him a speedy recovery!

Incoming freshman Rodney Hill has already been turning some heads and looks physically ready to contribute. He may see limited action in a crowded room but I’m sure this staff will have some opportunities for him to get some carries.

FSU also just moved Joshua Burrell from wide receiver to running back during fall camp. It may some time for him to get adjusted to the new position, but I think it’s a smart move. Given his size at 6-foot-2 217-pounds and seeing him squat over 600 pounds as a true freshman, that ability should be used somewhere, somehow.

If the staff didn’t feel like he was going to be able to crack the receiving lineup, then this move clearly makes sense. Burrell still has multiple years left to make the transition. We may see in only in as needed action, but he could be someone to watch in the future.

Wrapping up

I like what each back brings to the table individually in an offense that likes to lean on its running ability. Despite no clear RB1 at the moment, you get a well-rounded room with different skill sets and talented depth.

With Atkins now serving as offensive coordinator, and the assumed better offensive line up front, the FSU run game should be improved this season vs 2021.

Not to mention if FSU has the threat of a better passing offense that should allow for more success as well. Speaking of receivers, I feel better about this groups run blocking ability with the recent additions namely Johnny Wilson who has shown the ability to do so at a high level already.

I don’t want to overplay my hand on this one, but I think this position group has the potential to be one of the better ones on the team. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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