With Jordan Travis, dynamic playmakers in the pass game and a steady stable of talented running backs in Tallahassee last season, the Florida State Seminoles produced one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
The Seminoles gained 20 + yards on 97 plays, the most of any team that played 13 games (Georgia and Western Michigan had 98 of those plays in 14 and 15 games).
A huge part of that explosiveness was the offense averaging 5.5 yards per carry, ranking 8th in the nation. Being able to produce so much from the run game put Jordan Travis in a more advantageous position to attack defenses in the air and on the ground.
In different parts of the season, Mike Norvell was able to lean heavily on two different running backs, Trey Benson and the now-Kansas State Wildcat Treshaun Ward, the back-to-back ACC leader in yards per attempt (‘21, ‘22).
Over the first 5 games of the season, Ward was the lead back with 66 rushing attempts until he got hurt against Wake Forest. Once he was back getting snaps he had 18 rushing attempts over the last 4 games of the regular season.
With Ward being out, Benson was handed over the reins for the final 5 games of the regular season gaining 595 yards and scoring 6 touchdowns.
Mike Norvell was very complimentary of Benson at the end of that stretch of games, noting after FSU’s win against UF that while the production has been exciting, it was par for the course with what he and the staff expected from him:
“He’s been wonderful. You see the confidence. You see the toughness. He’s such an explosive back. He just battles. With each carry that he gets, he’s coming into his own... To see Trey going out there and having the success he’s having, it’s what we expected when he came here.”
He finished the season with 154 rushing attempts and 990 yards the most by any player in both categories under Norvell at FSU, while also breaking PFF’s record for broken tackle rate, breaking a tackle on 51% of his rushing attempts.
But of course, you can’t talk about what this rushing attack will look like without Jordan Travis, who led the team in 10+ yard gains and tied with Ward with seven rushing touchdowns.
Travis has always been a rushing threat but in 2022, he ran for more yards on designed runs than scrambles due to his development of operating in the pocket and tending to find open receivers on those scrambles.
In previous years, because issues on the offense line and receiver room, he could scramble but was getting sacked at a much higher rate and creating more negative plays. With the additions in the passing offense, he was able to be more of a quarterback than a playmaker.
Even beyond Travis and Benson the Seminoles have plenty of depth at running back, with Lawrance Toafili being the most experienced player.
Last season, the soon-to-be junior had 93 carries for 457 yards and 268 receiving yards, leading all FSU backs. With Benson fully sliding into the every-down role, Toafili will continue with that same support role and have the chance to once again thrive as the primary passing-catching running back.
But Mike Norvell has often leaned on three running backs getting significant usage so finding that next man up is crucial. There are a few players who have opportunities like CJ Campbell and Caziah Holmes, but the frontrunner is likely Rodney Hill.
Hill finished last season with 27 carries for 144 yards (5.3 YPA), while he wasn’t on the field too often he did make the most of his opportunities. Hill was consistently a standout in practice as well.
Jaheim Bell, the transfer TE, will be another interesting piece of this offense. At South Carolina, he was a utility player getting snaps in a wide variety of alignments including running back.
This was out of necessity due to injuries, but he had three straight games with at least 12+ rushing attempts. He was most effective in the red zone so while FSU has lots of depth at running back they will likely find some way to get him involved in the running game.