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Position Previews: Running backs

The Seminoles’ offense starts with the run game, and the run game starts with Trey Benson.

Charles Mays — Tomahawk Nation

Prior to the start of last season in spring camp, I asked then new running back Trey Benson what his goal was for the upcoming season. His answer was simple, to be a 1,000-yard running back like Cam Akers.

Trey did fall just 6-yards short of that goal. But coming off an injury-riddled start to his career at Oregon, his 2022 season proved he belongs under the bright lights on Saturdays and Sundays (just not quite yet).

To start the yaer Benson was in the mix as a contributor, but Treshaun Ward was getting the majority of the workload at running back.

Then Ward suffered an injury versus NC State, Benson was made the lead back and he never looked back. Over the last 6 games of the season, he averaged 16.5 rushing attempts and 103.3 yards on a per-game basis, scoring 6 of his 9 touchdowns on the season.

This is not a one-man backfield though, as the offense leaned on Lawrance Toafili as their change-of-pace passing-catching running back. Toafili led all backs in receiving targets (30).

We also got a preview of the future of the room and the depth with Rodney Hill and CJ Campbell getting more and more reps further into the season.

Florida State Seminoles football: Running backs

2022 stats

PFF Grades:

  • Overall rushing grade: 92.6 (No. 10 in the country)
  • 2,783 yards, 33touchdowns, 214.07 yards per game
  • Trey Benson: 88.5 Offensive Grade, 91.4 Rushing Grade (154 rushing attempts, 990 yards, 9 touchdowns)
  • Lawrance Toafili: 73.2 Offensive Grade, 74.3 Rushing Grade (94 rushing attempts, 457 yards, 5 touchdowns)

Main name to know

Trey Benson

Trey Benson is the Seminole's clear-cut bell cow back for 2023.

The eye test tells you all you need to know about Benson, he is 6’2 listed at 215 pounds (more likely in the 220 range) and he is always one of the fastest players on the field. If Mike Norvell made a running back in a lab, he would look like Trey Benson.

But it goes beyond the eye test, his efficiency and elusiveness were on another level statistically and were record-breaking.

PFF measures players missed tackle rate (missed tackles per attempt), the previous record for this was 48% (of attempts) by Javontae Williams. Benson smashed that, with a 51% missed tackle rate. So when you hand the ball to him, it’s more likely that he will force a missed tackle than not.

The Seminoles’ offense starts with the run game, and the run game starts with Trey Benson.

Returning players

  • Lawrance Toafili

Toaflil has been a staple in the Seminole's backfield since the arrival of Mike Norvell. He will continue to be so.

He is the number two back in this backfield as he will be on the field more than any other back not named Trey Benson. Last season he accounted for 450+ rushing yards and 250+ passing yards and ranked third on the team in yards from scrimmage (behind only Benson and Johnny Wilson).

His 250+ yards receiving is the most by any FSU running back since Dalvin Cook in 2016.

As we saw last season, this backfield will not be led by just two running backs. With Treshuan Ward transfering to Kansas State, there are carries that are now available in his absence.

  • Rodney Hill

The redshirt is the most likely candidate to pick up some of that work. Hill gained 144 rushing yards on 27 carries, with most of these coming in blowout wins. But he still showed that he belonged and deserved an elevated role.

  • CJ Campbell

Campbell will get some work too, but is more game-plan dependent or the next man up in the rotation if an injury happens. He performed well in practice and was rewarded in some of the blowout victories toward the end of the season.

  • Joshua Burrell

A one-time wide receiver, Burrell was moved to running back last season and has now seemingly transitioned into a flex-hybrid role where he’ll be available to play at either position. He’s been hampered a bit by injuries in his time in Tallahassee and will be looking to finally put practice field work into action on the field this season.

New faces

  • Caziah Holmes

Holmes is the most notable new face for the backfield, last season he transferred from Penn State in the middle of last season and was primarily on the scout team.

His freshman season at Penn State (2020) is when he saw the most game time, carrying the ball 50 times for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a sophomore, he only played in 3 games carrying the ball 5 times.

Now he gets a fresh start with the Seminoles and can use this year as an opportunity to get more in tune with the team and go through a full off-season. But he is likely the fifth name on the depth chart at running back.

  • Samuel Singleton Jr.

Singelton, who arrived on campus this summer, was a blue-chip signee in FSU’s 2023 recruiting class. With the depth present in the room and a need to get him up to speed to the college game, there’s a chance that Singleton will make an appearance or two in a blowout but is likely slated to redshirt.