Florida State running back Trey Benson hoping for 1,000-yard rushing season
Fully healthy and brimming with confidence, Florida State running back Trey Benson has high ambitions for his first season with the Seminoles.
He's also well aware of FSU's history.
“We haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2019 in Cam Akers, so that’s a goal for me,” Benson said.
To meet his objective, the Oregon transfer and Greenville (Miss.) St. Joseph product may have to overcome a couple challenges.
Like dual-threat quarterback Jordan Travis and running backs Treshaun Ward and Lawrance Toafili having a fair share of the carries. Benson also needs to show that he’s capable of handling a sizable workload – at least for the first time since he suffered a significant knee injury in December of 2020.
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Since the end of spring football, though, Benson has looked like the best running back on the roster.
At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Benson flashes a special combination of size, power and speed that no one else in the running back room seems to bring. Seminole head coach Mike Norvell knows the possibilities with Benson if he hits his ceiling as a player.
“He could be a game-breaking type of player with the skill set that he has,” Norvell said.
Game-breaking qualities were present in each of the eight running backs who have accounted for the 13 1,000-yard rushing seasons in FSU history.
What will be the minimum requirement for Benson to have a chance of being the 14th? Every 1,000-yard rusher tallied more than 150 carries, and all but one of them (Warrick Dunn, 1994) accumulated at least 170 rushing attempts.
No Seminole running back has eclipsed 150 carries since Akers’ 231 in 2019. Jashaun Corbin – FSU’s leading rusher among running backs in 2020 and 2021 – tallied 81 and 143 carries in the past two seasons, respectively. He split carries with Ward (81) and Toafili (32) last season.
So if he wants to reach the 1,000-yard mark, Benson likely would need to be the most featured back Norvell’s had with the Seminoles.
In FSU’s first five preseason practices, Benson continued to look the part physically. But to truly separate himself from Ward and Toafili, Benson will need to shine when the Seminoles begin practicing with full pads Tuesday and onward.
This summer, Norvell identified a way Benson could improve before he embraces full contact again.
“I really challenged Trey,” Norvell said. “Coming out of spring and looking at some things fundamentally, he’s such a strong, explosive and powerful back. But I want to see him play with that (lower) pad level. It’s one of those things that we talked about after spring ball was done, to really play with that force.”
To Benson, it’s a lot more simple. He’s certain that only one factor could keep him from obtaining his goal.
“Stay healthy. That’s the main thing that I need to do,” Benson said. “If I stay healthy, I’m good.”
Trey Benson back to 100%
Benson knew he would eventually feel comfortable again.
But not this comfortable.
“What surprised me the most was probably the speed I have now,” Benson said. “I feel like I’m way faster than I was before the injury.”
FSU’s coaching staff initially seemed to have a careful approach with Benson. At the beginning of the spring, Benson saw limited action in contact situations for precautionary reasons. So Benson had a relatively quiet start to spring football.
As his opportunities gradually increased, Benson naturally began to flash in practice. Then he had his best outing in the Garnet & Gold Spring Game in April. In just one quarter of the intra-squad scrimmage, Benson led the Seminoles in rushing with 77 yards on seven carries.
Since that performance, Benson has been at full go. He’s much different now compared to how he played in March.
“The problem with Trey is, he’s patient but he’s also so fast,” Verse said. “You can’t leave a hole open, because the second the hole is open, he’s gone.
“That’s not a problem with me, because I’ll hawk him. I’ll chase down Trey and all that. But Trey is fast. The second he hits the hole, he’s gone. There can’t be a flaw with him on the field.”
Benson credited his single-leg workouts as the reason for why he’s a faster player. The way Benson has approached the game since his injury also made a difference.
“I cherish it even more now,” Benson said. “I stay in the weight room, prehab. Even if I’m not hurt, I still get work in. It just made me cherish the game a little more.”
Benson returning kickoffs
If the Seminoles weren’t comfortable with Benson’s injury history at this point, he likely wouldn’t be lining up as a kickoff returner in practice.
Especially when he has limited experience with those responsibilities. Benson most recently returned kicks as a high school senior at St. Joseph. But he only returned one kickoff through 13 games that season.
“They never kicked me the ball,” said Benson of his high school experience.
FSU has room to improve in kick returning. The Seminoles finished 11th in the ACC and 66th nationally in yards per kick return (20.36) last season. They also have not returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Kermit Whitfield in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.
Wide receivers Winston Wright Jr., Ontaria Wilson and Deuce Spann, cornerback Azareye’h Thomas, Ward and Toafili are among other players who have returned kicks. Whether Benson emerges from that group remains to be seen, but he certainly has the explosiveness to end FSU’s kick returning woes.
“I need to catch the ball while I’m already running. And tracking the ball as well,” said Benson on what he needs to improve. “I’m still getting used to it. But I feel like I would be a good asset doing kick returns.
FSU’s 1,000-yard rushing seasons
1. Dalvin Cook 1,765 (2016)
2. Dalvin Cook 1,691 (2015)
3. Warrick Dunn 1,242 (1995)
4. Sammie Smith 1,230 (1987)
5. Warrick Dunn 1,180 (1996)
6. Cam Akers 1,144 (2019)
7. Greg Allen 1,134 (1983)
8. Larry Key 1,117 (1977)
9. Warrick Dunn 1,026 (1994)
10. Cam Akers 1,024 (2017)
11. Devonta Freeman 1,016 (2013)
12. Mark Lyles 1,011 (1979)
13. Dalvin Cook 1,008 (2014)
Reach Carter Karels at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels. You can also follow our coverage on Facebook (NoleSports) and Instagram (tlhnolesports).
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