2021 Spring Positions Preview: Running Back

After an offseason of questionable pieces at running back in 2020, Florida State now finds itself confident in its depth at the tailback spot. A position that recently featured Dalvin Cook and Cam Akers has been consistent throughout the last decade at Florida State. A position that is now headlined by a three-headed monster in sophomore Lawrance Toafili and redshirt sophomores Jashaun Corbin and D.J. Williams. With such a crowded backfield, who do we expect to see get the bulk of the carries in 2021?

Projected Running Back Depth Chart
  1. Jashaun Corbin
  2. Lawrance Toafili
  3. D.J. Williams
  4. Corey Wren
  5. Ja’Khi Douglas

This season brings us a breath of what we saw in 2020 with Corbin, Toafili, and former running back La’Damien Webb. A rotation of multiple guys, more than likely featuring the two that are the most consistent.

At the beginning of the 2021 season, I would suspect Jashaun Corbin to be the first of the bunch to run out on the field against Notre Dame. Corbin is a classic Mike Norvell guy. One who is very fun to follow on social media, and a guy who is nearly impossible to not like as a person. Let’s remember, he left Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M last offseason. Tons of brownie points from ‘Nole fans from that alone. I’m kidding of course… I think.

As a player, Corbin is nothing short of reliable, averaging 5 yards a carry on 81 attempts in his first season with extended playing time. He showed up particularly well near the end of last season, where he combined for 177 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns against NC State and Duke. Being more of a stable option rather than a big-play threat will limit Corbin’s ability to be a true RB1. But after spring camp, expect the redshirt sophomore to come out on top of the depth chart in week one.

Lawrance Toafili, boy does he seem special. Only a three-star recruit out of high school, but that burst speaks for itself. Toafili seemingly made a big play every time he touched the ball. The even crazier thing about that statement is that the stats back it up. 9.6 yards per carry and 1o yards per reception aren’t just everyday stats. As far as talent goes, Toafili could be the most talented running back on the roster. He showed above-average vision and incredible quickness this past season, and he is likely the last running back on the roster you want to meet in open space.

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It would not shock me if Toafili took over as RB1 as the season progresses. If he continues to make plays like last year it will be tough to let someone else take the bulk of the carries. He showed that he can get you four yards per carry and the big-play threat he is on any given down. A playmaker like that doesn’t come around every recruiting cycle and we know how Mike Norvell feels about playmakers.

Losing out on La’Damien Webb was less than ideal heading into the 2021 offseason, but Mike Norvell managed to bolster his depth back up with former Auburn Tiger D.J. Williams. Williams was a four-star recruit out of high school but hasn’t seen a ton of field in his career. Unless you are an Auburn Tiger fan, Williams didn’t ring much of a bell when it was announced he was transferring to Tallahassee. Unlike Jashaun Corbin who was a Jimbo follower as a recruit.

Williams is a bowling ball at 5’10 210 pounds, similar to what La’Damian Webb was a season ago. A hard-nosed back who’s tough to bring down with just one defender. He shows real power out of the backfield with decent north-south speed. While he hasn’t shown much agility in his tape, players in his build don’t typically need it. I would expect to see Williams as the primary short down back, who could excel and boost up to a quality rotational running back.

Corey Wren isn’t a name that sounds too familiar to the casual Florida State fans, only the ones who look at the recruiting class in detail. The redshirt freshman is a touchdown threat any time he touches the ball with a 4.3 40-time out of high school. Possibly the fastest guy on the team who could even be one who we see returning kicks and punts if Travis Jay doesn’t retain the return man job. I expect to see Wren on the field someway largely because of his speed alone.

Ja’Khi Douglas is a player we saw to some extent last year. Most of his name being remembered because of the fake pitch touchdown reception he had against Duke in the last game of the season. Douglas was rotated in a fair amount for a true freshman but was a tough one to analyze. He didn’t show an incredible burst or tremendous power that we can take note of. Yet he seems a very stable option if Florida State were to be bombarded with injuries.

Other notable backs on the roster include Deonte Sheffield, Treshaun Ward, and DJ Daniels. Three guys who likely won’t see much, if any, of the field this coming season. However, if needed, Sheffield and Ward both showed raw talent in the limited playing time they received over the past few years.

When looking over the roster, I think people can say running back is a position to buy high on in the 2021 season. Loaded with talent and a lot of depth, it is arguably the strongest position group on the roster. Something we didn’t say last offseason, but thanks to Mike Norvell and Co., a position we are excited for in 2021 and beyond.

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