Florida State’s end to the 2021 season gives the program cautious optimism heading into 2022. After spring practice commenced, there was excitement about what the running game can bring to the table this fall.
While FSU once again finished with a losing record and missed out on another bowl game after a season-ending loss to Florida, there were signs of a potential turn for the once-dominant Seminoles.
The key to this season is the offense - can they take the next step and be a consistent, balanced team. That starts with the rushing attack.
Mike Norvell made his name at Memphis with a dominant offense, known to rip off huge plays at a fast pace. We saw some of that from the Seminoles in 2021. 264 rushing yards versus Notre Dame, 205 versus Louisville, 176 in a near-upset of Clemson, 233 versus NC State, and 169 in a win over Miami.
The emergence of Jordan Travis as a passer should open up the running game even more this season, which is sorely needed and should help the offense sustain throughout the whole season. FSU failed to come up with more than 160 rushing yards in any of its last five games, and the passing attack wasn’t there to make up for it. While the run game was good, it still finished sixth in the ACC with an offense that finished 80th in the country.
The offensive line – the Achilles heel of the program and a large reason why the program has slipped into being average - wasn’t able to consistently block throughout the season. it’s loaded with veterans who worked the last few years in the system. There’s no excuse to not be a whole lot better and far more consistent.
Jordan Travis is the leading returning rusher as he had 530 yards, followed by Treshaun Ward’s 515 yards. Jashaun Corbin moved on to the NFL after a strong 2021 that saw him run for 887 yards. FSU ran the ball 53.39% of the time, and they finished 49th in rush yards per game.
There’s experience returning and the overall the talent level is getting better. If this is going to be anything close to the return-for-glory season Seminole fans have been waiting for, it starts here.
There are pieces there with Travis, Ward, an under-used Lawrance Toafili, and the star of the spring on offense, Oregon transfer Trey Benson. While none of these guys may be elite, Norvell is a top-flight play-caller and he should be able to get these guys into a position to excel.
The question is, who’ll be the leading rusher in 2022. Before spring the options were either Travis or Ward, but Benson showed he can be something FSU hasn’t had since Cam Akers - a workhorse.
That’s where it gets tricky. The coaches feel Travis is on the cusp of a huge season, and he’ll more than likely be around the 13 rushes per game he had in 2021. Ward and Toafili flashed in their limited attempts. Ward, for instance, was leaned on heavily late in the season opener versus Notre Dame and he was Uber productive.
Sitting here looking at the roster after spring, Benson stands out. With the size, patience and long speed he should be able to break off numerous chunk plays that Norvell is accustomed to. For me, he has the making of a national breakout season. Will he get the touches to make that happen though, as Norvell’s offense has been run by committee (Corbin had the most carries in 2021, but he had just 9 more than Travis)?
Here’s how I think this plays out as the passing game and offensive line should be improved this season.
Trey Benson: 175 rushes, 900 yards, 8 TDs
Jordan Travis: 150 rushes, 680 yards, 8 TDs
Treshaun Ward: 110 rushes, 675 yards, 6 TDs
Lawrance Toafili: 75 rushes, 425 yards, 4 TDs
CJ Campbell: 30 rushes, 135 yards, 2 TDs
While it may be presumptuous to pick Benson as the leading rusher and as someone that can push for 1,000 yards, what he showed in the spring says otherwise. Plus, Corbin was on pace for similar stats before injuries decimated the roster.
Stick with NoleGameday for more coverage of Florida State football throughout the summer.