2022 FSU position preview: Running back
FLORIDA STATE — Arguably one of the most stacked position groups for The Seminoles, the running back room is where depth and talent won’t be lacking in 2022.
The loss of Jashaun Corbin to the NFL leaves an opportunity for someone in that veteran room to step up and become the next star although expect a heavy rotation with an equal amount of reps to go around.
Names to know: Treshaun Ward, Trey Benson
Recently named to the Doak Walker Award watch list, Ward possesses a unique running style and frame that some compare to running back Devonta Freeman. He finished the 2021 season with a PFF.com overall grade of 84.5 and ranked first in the ACC in yards per carry at 6.36.
Interestingly, but not surprising given the style of offense head coach Mike Norvell likes to run, Ward took 258 snaps last season of which 110 were passing with 22 receptions and a touchdown.
If I were to bet on who steps into the role of starting running back I would probably choose Ward — however, that brings me to the next guy on the list.
Transferring in from Oregon, there were some concerns about a season-ending injury he endured in 2020. Benson was a four-star prospect and the top-ranked running back out of Mississippi and after talking to him during spring workouts you could tell that he feels he is the guy and carries himself like it.
“It was a big opportunity for me because of Jashaun Corbin leaving. There’s not a primary back right now. We are all just going to come compete so I’m just here to compete and develop myself and let the coach develop me too.”
Benson had a strong showing in the FSU spring game and has stood out at practice which immediately made him a media favorite. He led all running backs in rushing yards and had four carries for over ten yards. It only took him one quarter to showcase his skillset and let everyone see that the injury was in his rearview mirror.
“Right now, I’m 100 percent. I feel very confident in my knee. This season that had just passed, I was hesitant, but it took reps in practice every day. Right now I’m 100 percent.“
I would expect to see him heavy in the rotation and start to pull away as the down and distance back with explosive plays mixed in as the season progresses. Who knows? There is still fall camp ahead for the two and it will be interesting to see them battle it out before a week 0 matchup against Duquesne.
Still in the mix: Lawrence Toafili, CJ Campbell
It doesn’t feel right not to include these two in the “Names to Know” category. Campbell, a scout team star who in my opinion should’ve had an athletic scholarship yesterday, and Toafili who is used a little bit differently than your traditional running back but still has a ton of talent and will be in the mix with the best of them.
It seems his name gets lost with some people until he rattles off an acrobatic 75-yard touchdown as he did against Clemson in 2021. Running behind an offensive line that is constantly improving under new offensive coordinator Alex Atkins should help not just him but the run game, in general, moving forward.
From Seminoles.com for 2021:
Played in nine games with two starts…rushed 32 times for 168 yards and one touchdown and caught 10 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns…Seminole Scholar…caught 75-yard touchdown and rushed four times for 17 yards at Clemson…75-yard reception was FSU’s longest pass play since 2019 Sun Bowl…rushed for season-high 63 yards and one touchdown on four carries vs. UMass…rushed six times for 34 yards in season opener vs. No. 9 Notre Dame…totaled 22 rushing yards on 10 carries and five yards on two catches vs. Jacksonville State…made 20-yard reception and had two rushing yards at Wake Forest…caught three passes for 12 yards and had three-yard carry vs. Syracuse…made three receptions for four yards and one touchdown at Boston College…rushed five times for 22 yards in season finale at Florida…also saw action at North Carolina.
Seeing Toafili take another step in his game will be a welcome sight amongst the Seminole faithful.
I’m including Campbell here for two reasons. One, I think he’s talented enough to be on scholarship, and reason two is the fact that a lot of fans don’t get to see him work out with the team and actually perform. His teammates know how good he is but we haven’t really gotten a glimpse into what he can do on film. He was named scout team player of the year in 2021 and continues to impress.