The Daily Nole

Hot Take Tuesday: FSU Football Will Double Rushing Yardage Total from 2018

Ross Obley/FSU athletics

As is always the case in football, the quarterback position draws a lot of scrutiny.

For Florida State, optimism is high with redshirt sophomore James Blackman at the helm. Blackman has always been a team-first player and is widely lauded for his leadership ability.

Blackman however, won’t be able to accomplish much with at least some semblance of a ground game. Last season, the Seminoles ranked dead last in the ACC in rushing at just 91.1 yards per game. FSU had more than 50 yards fewer per game than the next closest team in the conference, Louisville.

To demonstrate how bad the rushing attack was for Florida State last season, the Seminoles ranked 127th out of 130 FBS teams in rushing yards per game. When it comes to yards per carry, only San Jose State was worse than FSU.

Improving from last season shouldn’t be difficult, but expect FSU to improve in a significant way. The Seminoles will not only increase their rushing totals from last season in 2019, they’ll double them when it comes to total yardage.

The 1,093 yards rushing last season for FSU was the lowest total for the Seminoles since 1969. Going from 91.1 yards rushing per game to 182.2 seems to be a tall task, but expectations are that Florida State will make a bowl game this season. If that’s the case, FSU would have to average about 160.5 rushing yards per game.

The biggest obstacle to becoming a competent rushing team will be the offensive line. The Seminoles tried to address that contingent this season by bringing in Randy Clements to replace Greg Frey as the unit’s position coach.

While the offensive line is still expected to be more of a liability than a strength this season, new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles should find creative ways to generate some production on the ground. Consistency may still be an issue for the offensive line, but expect more of the big play — something not uncommon for a Briles or Willie Taggart offense.

Last season at Houston, the Cougars ranked 15th nationally with 15 runs of at least 30 yards. For comparisons sake, FSU managed just four all last year with three of them coming from 2-time leading rusher Cam Akers, who returns for a junior season. Having Akers and redshirt sophomore Khalan Laborn share a backfield will give the Seminoles a pair of backs who can take it the distance at any given time.

In four years as a coordinator, big plays in the run game have been commonplace for Briles’ offenses. In 2017 at Florida Atlantic, the Owls ranked 11th nationally with 17 rushes of at least 30 yards. At Baylor in 2015, the Bears ranked eighth nationally in that category before finishing 71st the following season.

It may seem hard to believe looking at the raw totals and seeing final scores against Notre Dame and Florida, but the Seminoles actually did improve on the ground late last season. Over the final three games of 2019, FSU averaged nearly 134 yards per game on the ground compared to less than 77 over the first nine contests.

While Akers and Laborn will be the focal points of the ground attack, Briles has never hesitated to get others involved. Blackman was recruited for his right arm rather than his legs, but is no statue by any stretch of the imagination.

In his four years as a coordinator, Briles has had four different receivers rush for at least 100 yards in a season. Tre’Shaun Harrison, D.J. Matthews, Keyshawn Helton and Jordan Young all have great skill sets to be used in that capacity for the upcoming season.

Expecting FSU to become a top-10 offense — as Briles had in each of his last three stops — in 2019 might be a bit much, but the Seminoles should be improved on that side of the ball and particularly in the running game. While 161 rushing yards per game may seem like a lot for anyone who watched FSU last season, that total would have ranked just 10th in the ACC last season and just 74th nationally. Given the coaching upgrades and histories of both Taggart and Briles’ offenses, it’s not unreasonable to think that the Seminoles can double their rushing yardage total from 2018.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at Mike@TheDailyNole.com.

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