With the 2022 season officially in the books it’s time to turn our focus to 2023. It is still very early and there will almost certainly be more roster attrition throughout spring and leading up to the regular season. However, with a lot of moves already being made we’re going to take an early look at each position group to see what 2023 could potentially offer as it stands right now.
Of course, we’ll reevaluate this closer to the season when the roster moves to wind down and names have emerged. In each preview, I’ll name those I see as current impact players (players who have already produced or are expected to at a significant level) and possible contributors (players who have at least seen some playing time or have been highly regarded in practice and could contribute in the near future). This does not necessarily mean at FSU in regards to the transfer players and the returning production is from the 2022 season at each player’s respective school. Let’s get to it!
FSU had an explosive running game last season that featured a three-headed monster at running back between Treshaun Ward, Trey Benson, and Lawrence Toafili. We also saw flashes from talented freshman Rodney Hill and despite seeing limited action due to injury CJ Campbell looks to be the real deal as well. FSU also added Penn State transfer Caziah Holmes and incoming freshman running back Sam Singleton to the mix this year.
The loss of Treshaun Ward is a big one, he had a special skill set and could make people miss in a phone booth. However, this room is still loaded with talent led by Trey Benson who is a tackle breaking machine. Benson was 6th overall in all of college football in missed tackles forced (MTF per PFF) with 79 on the season. However, the five players that finished above him had an average of 123 more carries than Benson so one would imagine with the same sample size he likely would have led the country and probably by a wide margin.
In 2022, Benson’s first full collegiate season, he rushed for 994 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns. His average of 6.5 YPC was top 10 in backs with at least 150 carries. It’s fair to say Benson will be RB1 coming into 2023 and should reach his goal of becoming the first FSU back to break the 1,000-yard mark since Cam Akers in 2017. Unfortunately, he missed that mark by a mere 6 yards last season, however, he did finish with 1,331 all-purpose yards.
Lawrence Toafili is the next most experienced back in the room and while he’s been inconsistent over his career at FSU he’s shown flashes of why he can be special. Toafili rushed for 454 yards last season with an average of 4.5 YPC and tacked on 5 rushing touchdowns. One aspect he brings to the table is the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He was the leading receiver as far as running backs are concerned with 268 yards (11.2 YPC) and a touchdown.
Rodney Hill is a similar style back to Treshaun Ward which could be why we saw him get a NIL deal and Ward hit the portal. He flashed his potential during his freshman year and despite only having 27 rushing attempts he had 144 yards (5.3 YPC) and a touchdown. He also forced 15 missed tackles which is impressive on only 27 carriers when you see that Toafili had 12 MTF on 94 carries. Hill should see a larger role this season and with another year of development and I’m excited to see what he can do with it. If he gets enough carries I could see Hill having a breakout year.
CJ Campbell who’s a walk-on running back went down prior to the season with an injury and was initially not expected to play at all. However, he made a return during the Georgia Tech game and was able to play in 4 games last season. Campbell only had 18 carries last season going for 64 yards and 2 scores but he certainly has something to him and should also see an expanded role in 2023.
Caziah Holmes comes in from Penn State and is a back that I’m excited to see in action. He played 2 seasons for the Nittany Lions with 2020 being his most productive as he only had 5 rushing attempts in 2021 but did depart the team prior to the end of the season. As a freshman during the 2020 season, he had 50 carries for 228 yards (4.6 YPC) and 2 touchdowns. Holmes doesn’t have the most production to go off of but he does have 164 snaps of experience in the Big Ten and two years of college development already under his belt. He arrived at FSU late in the 2022 season but was not eligible to play until 2023. However, he was able to practice which means he’s had a significant head start in learning the offense. He also has a high upside as a former 4-star and number 5 all-purpose back from the 2020 class with plenty of speed to work with.
Sam Singleton comes in as a talented 4-star freshman. Chances are he will see limited action in a room that already has a host of talented backs. However, knowing that FSU should have multiple games they are heavily favored in this season I do believe he will see the field.
My main concern for the running backs this season is staying healthy. With Ward’s departure, proven depth could be a concern. We’re excited about what we saw from Rodney Hill and CJ Campbell but to be fair most of their carries came in garbage time against not that great of competition.
I’m a fan of Toafili but if he’s forced to carry the load that would also be a concern as he’s just not been the most consistent back during his career.
Caziah Holmes provides very valuable depth and should be a significant contributor this season but again not a lot of proven production to rely on.
I’m a big fan of talent and trusting the evaluation and development of this staff who has proven time and time again with players like Trey Benson and Johnny Wilson that they know what they are doing. However, as most of you know I also like to rely on proven production at the college level and not just potential.
Hopefully, having a depth of talented yet unproven players behind the guys we already know about will provide the depth necessary to allow for some load management and keep the top end of the rotation fresh.
There’s a fair number of teams on this schedule I think FSU could beat with the backups in at running back which could give the two lead backs some time to rest or at least allow an early exit in a few games. This will also allow the younger players an opportunity to gain valuable game experience. Other than those minor concerns, I’m excited about what this group can accomplish in 2023.
Mike Norvell has a good track record of productive rushing attacks in his offense. We saw last season how his prolific rushing offense being paired with Alex Atkins at offensive coordinator, who can tailor the run game to the strengths of his offensive line unit, really set off this rushing attack in 2022. They had 8 games with over 200 rushing yards and finished the season with the 14th-ranked rushing offense.
While it wasn’t always perfect, Florida State had the best offensive line play it has had in years in 2022 and 2023 could be even better with the additions they made through the portal. Also, keep in mind that while he’s not a running back Jordan Travis is still a legit run threat that defenses have to respect which helps open up things for the backs. That and FSU finally having a real passing threat to keep defenses from loading the box paid dividends in 2022 and should do the same in 2023.
I look for this rushing attack to have another big year in 2023 if they stay healthy (and so does the offensive line) which should set up the Seminoles to make a successful run this upcoming season. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!
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