Florida State football: Why Seminoles' Trey Benson is one of the nation's best running backs

Carter Karels
Tallahassee Democrat

Trey Benson is not only establishing himself as the best player in the revered Florida State running back room.

He also is playing better than almost any running back in the country.

Benson rotating with backfield mates Treshaun Ward and Lawrance Toafili has kept him from totaling elite rushing numbers. How much Benson has produced in proportion to his shared reps, though, should earn him national attention.

More on Trey Benson:'I almost had an anxiety attack': Florida State football's Trey Benson explains nerves before Duquesne

Column on FSU football:Norvell has led FSU to a winning season (finally). But there's still work to do.

More from FSU football's press conference Monday:Florida State football coaches send 'thoughts and prayers' to University of Virginia

The AP No. 20/CFP No. 23 Seminoles (7-3) will continue to lean on Benson when hosting Louisiana (5-5) in Doak Campbell Stadium at noon Saturday (TV: ACC RSN).

“You see the understanding of all that he's being asked to do,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said in his weekly press conference Monday. 

“Obviously with the ball in his hands, the efficiency in his tracks, the efficiency in his footwork, he's such a strong, powerful runner. But getting himself in the right spot and then trusting what he's seeing.”

Through 10 games, Benson has tied for No. 118 nationally in carries (105). Yet he comes in at No. 45 in rushing yards (774). That noticeable ranking difference can be explained by his mark of 7.37 yards per carry, which trails only UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet (7.53) among all qualifying FBS players.

Why is Benson so efficient as a runner? 

Defenders struggle to bring him to the ground with his elusive-but-bruising style at 6-foot-1, 215-pounds. Despite his limited usage, Benson is tied with Michigan’s Blake Corum for No. 7 among FBS running backs in missed tackles forced (63), per Pro Football Focus.

PFF also has Benson at No. 1 in elusive rating (284.3) and breakaway percentage (59.6%), No. 2 in run grade (93.8) and No. 3 in overall grade (91.3). Which is stunning when considering that Benson might be far from a finished product. 

The first-year transfer from the University of Oregon entered this season with much to learn. He had limited experience after suffering a significant knee injury in December of 2020, recording only 22 yards on six carries in his two seasons with the Ducks.

Now, Benson is leading an FSU ground game that has surpassed 200 yards rushing in each of its last five games, a program-first since 1995. The Seminoles are rushing for 213.6 yards per game, which ranks No. 16 nationally and is their highest average in a season since 1995.

“What I love about Trey is, he is always searching to improve,” Norvell said. “He always wants more. He wants feedback. He wants to continue to grow, and even coming out of the (Syracuse) game, there were a handful of plays that you sit there and say, ‘Well, these are the things you can do to really take your game to another level.’

“He embraces that.”

Analysis from FSU's win over Syracuse:Surging Florida State defense continues to redefine Seminoles' ceiling

Nov 5, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Trey Benson (3) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Benson thriving in increased role

It took some time before Benson emerged as the Seminoles’ top running back.

Through the first half of the season, Ward served as the starter. And in each of FSU’s first four games against FBS opponents, Benson trailed Ward and Toafili in offensive snaps. He played just 25% of the snaps during that stretch, while they received 51.1% and 40.2% of them, respectively.

Ward then went down with an injury against NC State on Oct. 8. He missed three games – Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami – before returning in a limited capacity for the Seminoles’ 38-3 win at Syracuse last Saturday.

Without Ward in the mix, Benson initially failed to secure the featured role. Toafili (90) doubled Benson (45) in snaps against NC State and Clemson combined. Benson then overtook Toafili in the last three games, starting in each of them.

In those three games, Benson took a significant step forward. He recorded 404 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 51 attempts (8.1 yards per carry), 244 rushing yards after contact and 26 missed tackles forced.

For comparison, Benson tallied 267 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 43 attempts (6.2 yards per carry), 192 rushing yards after contact and 19 missed tackles forced through his first six games against FBS opponents this season.

The Seminoles benefit from Benson’s increased involvement in their offense. They are 6-0 when he reaches at least 10 carries and/or 70 rushing yards, and 1-3 when either of those marks are not cleared.

"It's been a great confidence booster. I just had to get comfortable in the system,” said Benson on his most recent stretch. “I barely played in college these past two years. This year, I'm finally getting my feet wet. 

“Every game, I'm continuing to learn, continuing to get better.”

Takeaways from FSU's win over Syracuse:Jordan Travis scores 5 touchdowns as Florida State blows out Syracuse

Nov 12, 2022; Syracuse, New York, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Trey Benson (3) warms up before a game against the Syracuse Orange at JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Tracking Benson’s quest for 1,000 yards

In August, Benson shared with the media a lofty goal that he had coming into the season.

He wanted to be FSU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Cam Akers in 2019.

Doing so in such a crowded backfield seemed nearly impossible. In the 13 seasons that the Seminoles have produced a 1,000-yard rusher, all of them eclipsed 150 carries. And besides Warrick Dunn in 1994 (152) and 1996 (166), they each surpassed 170 rushes.

If Benson continues to play like he has in his last three games, he could conceivably become FSU’s 14th 1,000-yard rusher. 

It’s also possible that Benson will accomplish that feat without clearing the historical 150-carry minimum. His 7.37 yards per carry ranks third when compared to the 13 1,000-yard rushers, trailing Warrick Dunn in 1995 (7.48) and Dalvin Cook in 2015 (7.39).

As Ward returns to form, Benson will probably lose some of the opportunities that he gained during his absence. But don’t expect Benson to worry much about his preseason goal.

“Trey is a high character, great, selfless, humble football player,” Seminole offensive coordinator Alex Atkins said. “He doesn’t say much. He’s behind the scenes, quiet. And he just wants to go out there and do his best and support the teammates out there.”

More on Trey Benson:Florida State running back Trey Benson hoping for 1,000-yard rushing season

Up Next

Who: FSU (7-3) vs. Louisiana (5-5)

When/Where: Saturday, noon; Doak Campbell Stadium


Reach Carter Karels at or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels. You can also follow our coverage on Facebook (NoleSports) and Instagram (tlhnolesports).

No one covers the ‘Noles like the Tallahassee Democrat. Subscribe using the link at the top of the page and never miss a moment.