The Gators have a stable of running backs that could start at a number of schools. With the return of Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine, Malik Davis, Adarius Lemons and the additions of Dameon Pierce and Iverson Clement it’s an easy argument to say that running back is Florida’s strongest position group going into the season.
The one problem is there’s only one ball to go between them.
Now, especially in the SEC, you can never have too many running backs. Jordan Scarlett missed the season last year due to an alleged credit card fraud and Malik Davis needed knee surgery after an injury. Running backs take a beating and it’s a tough league to stay healthy in, so you won’t hear Dan Mullen complain about having too many backs.
It’s just up to him and running backs coach Greg Knox to figure out the best way to utilize them.
“I do think that’s a position I think we have talent at. I see those guys, we have some talent and depth at the running back position right now, so that’s pretty exciting,” Mullen said. “What we’ve got to do is just the grasp, make sure they grasp every part of the offense.”
Mullen made note that the first two things his running backs need to do are protect the ball and protect the quarterback, in that order. Still, with questions at quarterback it seems that the offense will, once again, need to lean on the ground game to get the offense going and score points.
One way to use as much of that talent at one time is to use two-back sets, something familiar to Mullen’s past offenses.
“We’ll have two backs on the field at different times because those guys can play,” Mullen said. “And do some different things to put them in position to get the ball in their hands.”
That’s something the team showed glimpses of in spring camp and again in fall camp. It’s definitely part of the plan for 2018 but Knox doesn’t think the offense is quite ready to roll it out on to the field right now.
“Well we’re going to use our talent. If they can handle it we’ll do it. We got a talented group of guys and again we’re just trying to get them to execute at a high level right now,” he said. “It may be what 20 – how many more days we got, about 20/25? Maybe by then, but not now.”
Mullen’s offense also use shifts and motions. A two back set could quickly turn into a single back with one of the two motioning outside next to a receiver.
Six capable backs all competing for limited carries creates a certain pressure every day at practice. Scarlett and Perine have the most experience but the other four backs aren’t going to lay down and watch those two run away with all of the carries this season.
“It’s competitive. They got to compete, they got to come out and compete everyday,” Knox said. “They know they got to do well. And they got to create that everyday in everything they do.”