Florida will enter fall camp with an abundance of talent this season. While they do have to replace four starters on the offensive line, the Gators are loaded at the skill positions, and that includes running backs coach Greg Knox’s group.
A position that really shined last year, the rushers look to actually be even stronger in their second season under Dan Mullen. This is, in large part, due to strength and conditioning coach Nick Savage. He has the pleasure and honor of running the team until their tongues hang from the sides of their mouths, and sculpting every muscle into its peak form.
It is because of Savage and Knox that these backs are able to maximize each of their God given talents. With that said, what can be expected from this position come fall?
Despite Jordan Scarlett leaving for the NFL, Florida really shouldn’t see much of a drop off in production. Lamical Perine split reps with Scarlett last season, performing at least as well if not better.
Perine averaged 6.2 yards per carry on his way to 826 yards and eight touchdowns. He has also proven to be an effective receiver, recording 170 yards by air. With the number one spot firmly in his grasp, it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that he could reach 1,000 yards rushing this season.
Perine’s fast, powerful, agility make him a great every down back. However, knowing the way Mullen likes to use his running backs, who will be that change of pace guy? As of right now, I would probably go with Malik Davis.
Davis is lightning quick and has excellent field vision. He established himself as a fan favorite early on, during the 2017 season. The only real knock on him is that he has yet to complete a season.
After being sidelined by a torn ACL in 2017, Davis found his season cut short, once again, just three games into last season when he broke his foot. When he is healthy, Davis can run with the best of them, giving defenses fits as they attempt to contain him. He provides some added value in pass protection, as well.
Should he be able to avoid the injury bug that has plagued his career so far, Davis will be a powerful compliment to Perine. And if he goes down again? Let’s just say, the Gators have an excellent insurance policy.
Dameon Pierce thrilled fans during the early portion of his freshman campaign. Amassing 424 yards rushing on just sixty-nine carries, Pierce’s 6.14 yards per carry and two touchdowns gave Florida fans a glimpse of the future.
Pierce runs with an angry and aggressive style and displays a surprising burst. His 5’10” 216-pound frame will also come in handy on short yardage situations when power and a low center of gravity are needed.
The major weakness in Pierce’s game last season was pass protection, something he has worked exhaustively on during the off season. When he improves that area, Pierce has the potential to be one of the leading backs in the SEC.
Without question, we will see a heavy dose of these three in the coming season. Beyond this trio of tenacity, the Gators have a capable supporting cast.
Iverson Clement is a gifted back that many have forgotten simply because of the extraordinary talents ahead of him on the depth chart. Make no mistake, he has the skills to shine at Florida if and when he gets a shot. He will need to continue working on becoming a complete back, however. Mullen requires a lot from his backs. Whether it be blocking or knowing which route to run, the position is demanding in this offense.
Though he is primarily a receiver now, Kadarius Toney’s incredible athleticism will demand at least a handful of carries this season. It may come in the form of a reverse or a jet sweep, but Toney is electric with the ball in his hands, averaging over ten yards per carry in his career.
That athleticism and versatility gives Mullen a valuable weapon on any down, and one that can be used in multiple deceptive packages.
As they continue in coach Savage’s strength and conditioning program this summer, a group that was already a strength, will become even stronger this fall. They will receive their first test on August 24, 2019 when they kickoff the college football season against Miami in Orlando.