After the indefinite loss of starting running back Matt Jones to a viral infection, perhaps the most interesting news at the running back position in the fall camp has been emergence of sophomore running back Mark Herndon.
Herndon, a 5-foot-9, 196-pound product of Forest High School (Ocala, Fla.), walked-on to the Florida Gators after initially planning on attending Lindenwood (Mo.) University, a Division II School. As a senior at Forest High School, Herndon rushed for 1,541 yards and scored 19 touchdowns.
Herndon came onto campus in the summer of 2012 with a crowded backfield of Mike Gillislee, Mack Brown, and Matt Jones. Herndon, however, gave his all and played in six games (mainly special teams) and was named Scout Team Player of the Week for the South Carolina game and Special Teams Scout Team Player of the Week for the Bowling Green and Tennessee games. At the 2013 Orange and Blue Debut, Herndon had a couple of nice runs, including a 10-yard touchdown run.
While the Gators are still expecting Matt Jones back in the not-so-far future and Mack Brown expected to receive most of the carries in his absence, it is hard to ignore the name Mark Herndon that has been mentioned by coaches and practice observers.
In order to learn what we can about Herndon, let’s take a look at his tape from his senior year at Forest High School.
Watching through the video the first time, the thing that stands out the most is Herndon’s quick feet and agility. Herndon is able to evade quite a few tackles, especially in the backfield, but also is shifty through blocking. Herndon does bounce around a bit in the backfield, but he is much more of a north/south runner than east/west, which is what Will Muschamp has said he is looking for in his running backs.
Coupled with his agility, Herndon displays good-to-great vision. He keeps his head on a swivel and seems to always be looking for his next hole.
Herndon is not a large running back by any means, but he is not afraid to run into a pile and grind his feet forward. The GIF below show exactly that:
Herndon is not exceptionally explosive, but he has a high top-speed that he is able to maintain throughout his long runs. Throughout the highlight film, you see him run 50-plus yards and he seems just as quick 11 yards into his run as he is 45 yards into the play.
Herndon also shows that he can be a great blocker. Below are two more GIFs of Herndon. In the first GIF, Herndon delivers a bone-crushing block on a rushing defensive lineman. He squares to the defender and uses his leverage to knock down the much heavier defenseman. In the second GIF, Herndon picks up a defensive lineman that has slid off of his block by the offensive tackle. He has a direct path to the quarterback before Herndon holds him off, twice.
Herndon’s tape shows a lot of promise. He is speedy, shifty, and a strong blocker. Herndon has earned his carries for the 2013 season and although you may have not heard of him before, he is worth the look now.