Haney: FSU RBs have potential to improve

Our Travis Haney puts the spotlight on specific position groups for five different elite programs, saying these are the units that are key to each squad fulfilling expectations in 2012.

Not surprisingly, Florida State's running backs crack the list.

It was a carousel last year, with six backs getting more than 23 carries. That's not counting quarterback EJ Manuel, who ran 110 times -- only 10 fewer than the team's leading rusher, Devonta Freeman. Freeman, who ran for 579 yards and eight touchdowns, eventually won the job as a freshman. The half-dozen backs rushed for 4.2 yards a carry, but the coaches felt that could have been better.

The competition was opened up this spring, and thrust even wider by injuries to Freeman and oft-banged-up senior Chris Thompson. Sophomore James Wilder, a larger candidate at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, could be a possible breakout back. Early enrollee Mario Pender could become a factor in the fall, too. Freeman showed last year that coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff are not afraid to play a freshman.

It's not all on the backs; FSU is still going to be extremely young along the offensive line. It could start as many as three sophomores up front.

The Seminoles ranked 105th last season in rushing yards per carry. They started four true freshmen offensive linemen in the Champs Sports Bowl win over Notre Dame. And they had way too many three-and-outs to balance their offense. If FSU wants to finally live up to the annual hype, it will need a boost from the backfield this season.