Few teams in the country have as much depth and skill at the running back position as the Florida Gators will have this year. Yes, when it comes to this stable of backs, running backs coach, Greg Knox has an embarrassment of riches. With so many talented backs to choose from, the battle for carries has been intense.
After a breakout season in 2016 that saw Jordan Scarlett running through defenders on his way to 889 yards, 6 TDs, and a respectable 5.0 YPC, many expected him to be a 1,000 yd rusher last season. Instead, he was suspended for the entire season for his role in a credit card scam that saw nine different players disciplined.
Scarlett has since fulfilled his deferred prosecution agreement and is ready to pick up where he left off. He is considered the front runner to be the featured back in head coach Dan Mullen‘s offense this season.
Malik Davis found stardom during his freshman campaign as he burned through defenders on his way to 526 yards. The talented freshman had become the leading rusher last season, averaging 6.7 YPC before being sidelined by a season ending knee injury.
When Davis went down, so did UF’s offense as they struggled to find a consistent rhythm without him. He has worked all off season to rehabilitate his knee and is back to 100% for the upcoming year. This bodes well for Davis to be the change of pace back this year.
In 2017, Lamical Perine tallied 8 touchdowns and 4.1 yards per carry, on his way to 562 yards. This was a slight dip in his yards per carry for the previous year when he averaged 4.6.
Perine has shown that he has the skills to be a great back but has been inconsistent at times. This year, he is looking to put it all together to challenge for a share of the carries. Expect to see him play compliment to Davis.
Adarius Lemons was a 4 star recruit when he committed following FNL in 2016. Expected to be a major factor in year one, he found himself relegated to mostly special teams, instead. Frustrated by lack of carries and struggling to grasp a needlessly over complicated playbook, Lemons nearly left the team.
“At first, I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t think I want to be here’, because of the coaches, we had a lot of stuff going on.” Lemons, said. “But I kind of stuck it out and did what I had to do.” With a new staff and a fresh outlook, Lemons is pushing himself and his teammates to go harder. It is still unclear how big of a role he will play as he has battled with a couple of talented freshmen for reps throughout fall camp.
With one of those freshmen, Iverson Clement, moving to safety -at least for the foreseeable future- that leaves Dameon Pierce as Lemons’ biggest threat. And make no bones about it, Pierce is fierce!
Pierce joined the 2018 class as a 4 star out of Georgia. The 8th rated running back for the class of 2018, Pierce rushed for 6,779 yards (10th in state history) in his high school career with 2,123 of those in his senior season. He averaged 9.4 YPC and racked up 92 TDs during his prep career as well.
Even though he is only a freshman, Pierce is imposing at 5’11” and 205 lbs. When he does see the field, he has breakaway speed and a powerful and violent running style that will punish any defenders unfortunate enough to stand in his way.
This may be the best running backs group that the Gators have had in a decade or more. In fact, this might even be the best group in the nation. With Mullen’s spread attack enabling them to get into open space, this group is poised to impose their will with relentless effort.