The second edition of our “The Future” series forecasts a position that is dying a slow death in the current era of football but one that has been a staple of Will Muschamp’s offenses at Florida.
It’s a throwback position from an era of football where the forward pass was forward thinking and teams enjoyed pounding the rock and their opponents into submission. It is a thankless position that paves the way for others to receive the glory that comes with getting into the end zone.
While the position has been an important staple of Florida’s offense the past three seasons, a move to a spread offense could render the position useless in most offensive sets. Before we jump ahead to a potential schematic change, let’s take a look at who Florida has at the position and what to expect moving forward at fullback.
Holding Steady: Hunter Joyer
2013 Stats: 3 carries, 18 yards, 2 receptions, 12 yards, 1 TD
It’s an inarguable fact that Hunter Joyer is far more meaningful to Florida’s offense than that stat line shows. Joyer is a great lead blocker in the running game and he gives teeth to Florida’s attack by creating lanes for the backs to follow. Listed generously at 5-11 and a solid 240 pounds, Joyer is built like a battering ram and serves his purpose well.
Strengths: Joyer is a physical player who embraces the physicality of both the sport and his role on the team. He’s a player who’s job is to ram his body into a defender and keep them from making a play, something he does rather well. Joyer is a solid with the ball in his hands and has shown soft hands when called upon as a receiver.
Weaknesses: Joyer’s enthusiasm for contact sometimes allows him to build up too much steam leading out of the backfield, allowing defenders to use Joyer’s momentum against him like a matador side-stepping a raging bull. Joyer needs to play in control and within himself and his abilities.
Moving Up: Gideon Ajagbe
2013 Stats: 4 receptions, 28 yards, 1 TD
Before moving to fullback, Ajagbe was seemingly buried deep down on the linebacker depth chart. His move to fullback was originally perceived to be a move to keep Joyer healthy throughout the rigors of spring and summer camp but proved to be more than that. Ajagbe became a receiving target and developed a good relationship with Jeff Driskel — catching 3 passes and a touchdown — with Driskel at quarterback.
Strengths: Ajagbe is the ying to Joyer’s yang. A former linebacker, Ajagbe is physical enough to handle blocking defenders but he also surprised with his athleticism and soft hands as a receiver. If Florida moves to more of a spread offense, expect Ajagbe to become even more of a receiving threat moving into his final season in Gainesville.
Weaknesses: Ajagbe was very green as a blocker last season. At times, he hit the hole and buried defenders, looking every bit the blocker that Joyer is. But he was inconsistent, often missing assignments or running past defenders completely. That will get better with time as he becomes more familiar with the position.
Moving Down: N/A
Buried on the Depth Chart: Rhaheim Ledbetter
2013 Stats: N/A
Ledbetter joined Ajagbe last spring, moving from defense to fullback. Ledbetter didn’t see any time at the position during the regular season and is buried far below Joyer and Ajagbe on the depth chart.
If Will Muschamp is committed to going to a spread offense, the need for a fullback will be lessened and the opportunity for Ledbetter to earn snaps here will go extinct.
A redshirt freshman, Ledbetter may be better suited with a change of scenery and a different school where he would have the opportunity to move back to safety and play right away.