Jashaun Corbin leaving Florida State early for the NFL likely won’t be too significant of a loss.
Not with the current state of the Seminole running back room. Top options Treshaun Ward, Oregon transfer Trey Benson and Lawrance Toafili impressed throughout spring football. Even early-enrolled freshman Rodney Hill and walk-on CJ Campbell had their moments.
So FSU could ultimately afford to lose Corbin, who led the team in rushing last season with 887 yards and seven touchdowns on 143 carries across 12 games. The same could be said for the two reserve running backs who transferred this offseason in Corey Wren (TCU) and DJ Williams (Arizona).
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Still, the Seminoles are looking to have their first 1,000-yard rusher since 2019. Is there a member of this running back group who is good enough to have that kind of season? Or will this position continue to feature a committee of players?
Here’s a closer look at FSU’s running backs as part of our football position preview series.
All three of FSU’s top running back options are solid and offer something different.
The shifty Ward is the most reliable among the three. The former walk-on brings the most proven production, leading all of the returning running backs in rushing last season with 515 yards and four touchdowns on 81 carries.
The most explosive running back is Toafili. His 9.62 yards per carry as a true freshman in 2020 ranked first in the ACC and second nationally. He’s just the fifth player in FSU history to have a rushing and receiving touchdown of at least 70 yards.
Benson looks to be the most complete back. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Benson is by far the biggest running back on the roster. And his combination of speed and power can make him effective in multiple ways.
This spring saw each of those three players take a step forward. Ward built off his breakout season and emerged as one of the team’s best leaders. After Toafili struggled with injuries last season, he added weight and looked more durable. Benson gradually improved each practice before breaking out in the Garnet & Gold Spring Game, turning seven carries into 77 yards.
The Seminoles having three quality running backs with differing skill sets gives them the flexibility to be multiple in their scheme. They can use two-back sets. All three can be featured in the short passing game. And overall, Ward, Toafili and Benson can each have roles defined by their strengths.
Will the Seminoles have a legitimate No. 1 option?
FSU installing a running back-by-committee approach seems more likely. Ward, Benson and Toafili are all too talented to keep off the field. They also each have concerns that could prevent them from being a workhorse back.
As a smaller running back, the 5-10, 189-pound Ward may not have the durability to withstand the beating that comes with 20-25 touches per game. Ward averaged 8.5 touches per game last season and reached double-digits in carries only three times.
The 6-foot, 187-pound Toafili brings the same concern to an even larger degree. Last season, Toafili missed three games and saw limited reps after suffering an injury. Half of his 32 carries on the season came in the first two games.
With Benson, the knee injury he suffered in December of 2020 could be a lingering concern. Benson showed this spring that he’s back to his formerly explosive self. But whether Benson is capable of staying healthy for a full season remains to be seen.
As head coach Mike Norvell aims to complete an extensive roster rebuilding project, he will need to find a legitimate No. 1 running back. The Seminoles not having one featured running back this season, though, would not be a glaring problem.
This position group should be one of FSU’s best, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
Benson will be FSU’s leading rusher.
Forget that Benson has not played since suffering a brutal knee injury. Forget that Benson has only rushed for 22 yards at the collegiate level. Forget that Benson is new to the Seminoles and will need to learn the playbook.
When Benson stepped on the field this spring, he clearly looked like FSU’s most dynamic running back.
Benson has the power to run inside the tackles and in short-yardage situations, the speed run on outside the tackles, the quickness to miss tackles in space and the hands to be effective in the passing game. He should be at least serviceable in pass protection, too.
With his wide-ranging abilities, Benson has the talent to permanently surpass Ward and Toafili in the pecking order. Benson simply needs to stay healthy. Regardless, Ward and Toafili would play enough to keep Benson from being a 1,000-yard rusher. But Benson would lead the group in carries, yards and touchdowns just like Corbin did.
Florida State football position previews
More:Florida State football position preview: Quarterbacks
Reach Carter Karels at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Carter Karels.
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