Sophomore running back Adarius Lemons came to Florida as one of the most highly touted recruits in his class.
The moment he committed following Friday Night Lights in 2016 was one to remember. Let’s just say lemon emojis were everywhere.
But once the hype settled down and he actually arrived on campus to start competing for carries, things didn’t go exactly as many, including Lemons, hoped or expected.
He played in nine games as a freshman, but mostly on special teams. He didn’t start to see significant action until fellow freshman running back Malik Davis tore his ACL late in the season.
Once he got his shot, he gave glimpses of the player he could be as he finished the year with 136 rushing yards on 19 carries and had a strong 89-yard performance against UAB.
Lemons knew he had that ability while he stood on the sidelines for a majority of the season, which became frustrating for him, and even brought up thoughts of leaving the program.
“My freshman year didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but I kind of hung in there a little bit and stuck it out,” Lemons said. “At first, I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t think I want to be here,’ because of the coaches, we had and a lot of stuff going on. But I kind of stuck it out and did what I had to do.”
There were many times Lemons questioned his decision to come to Florida.
He really struggled with learning the playbook as a freshman, which was the biggest thing holding him back from getting on the field. But he did not feel like he had anyone to turn to and help him catch up once he got behind.
“Last year I went to Coach [JaJuan] Seider a few times to help me with this and help me with that, but I guess he had to move on,” he said. “I guess whoever learned it from when he first got here was who they were rolling with, so it kind of took me a little time to actually process a couple things.”
Those days of feeling like there is no one in his corner are over. Since Dan Mullen, Greg Knox and the rest of the new coaching staff came in, things have completely changed for Lemons.
While he has a whole new offense to learn, it hasn’t been nearly as difficult.
Lemons, as well as Jordan Scarlett, spoke to the fact that the previous playbook was overcomplicated and had things in it that the team often didn’t even need to know. That caused confusion and made guys play slower, but now, it is all about going fast and playing without having to think too hard.
Even when things do get complex, there is always a coach there to go over it in detail without any hesitation.
“The playbook now is really understandable,” Lemons said. “I mean before, the playbook, it was just a little thick. There were things I couldn’t really process in my head. But now, it’s like you have coaches sit down with you and actually go over the defensive side of the ball, not just the offensive side of the ball. So, once you have a coach that sits down with you and actually explains the game to you, just breaking it down, you actually get it. And then once you get it, you’ve just got to go out there and progress.”
Lemons is much more comfortable this year, and that is bringing out the best in him.
His competitiveness has started to shine through. He even made a personal rivalry between himself and Florida’s linebackers when he declared his hate for them on Twitter last week.
They now try to give him a little something extra when he has the ball in his hands, but that’s really what he wants.
“He likes to talk a little smack, keep it interesting, keep it juiced up, so they always are after him,” Scarlett said. “He runs hard, even in practice. Coaches are like, ‘Stay up,’ and he’s trying to run over a DB. He’s like, ‘I’m working on my stuff,’ so they’re like, ‘All right, we are going to hit you then because you want to play so hard.’ So, they take him down every time he runs the ball. I’m like, ‘You’re going to get tired of that, man.’ But he hasn’t gotten tired yet.”
The Gators are extremely loaded in the backfield this year, so it is hard to say exactly where Lemons will end up fitting in. He is just happy he stuck out the hardships of last season to get to this point.