When you think of a Dan Mullen offense running the football comes to mind immediately. During Mullen’s nine years at Mississippi State the Bulldogs only finished outside the top five in rushing twice.
When Mullen took over at Florida with a stable of running backs that would make a coach blush it was assumed that Florida would be near or atop the SEC in rushing this season.
Through six games the Gators are just ninth in the SEC in rushing at 181.5 yards per game and just eight rushing touchdowns.
“Average, we have to be able to run the ball downhill more than we do. We got to be able to move people off the ball and knock people back more than we did,” offensive coordinator John Hevesy said on Tuesday. “LSU is good up front, big up front, but to me our pads have to be low and we have to be able to knock people off the ball to run inside zone better than we do. We got great runs on the perimeter, we have to help ourselves inside to open up more of that outside game.”
Florida’s offense as a whole hasn’t suffered. They had a successful running day against LSU. The Gators rushed for 215 yards against LSU. The Tigers hadn’t allowed 200 yards rushing since September 30, 2017 in a home loss to Troy. Lamical Perine had 17 carries for 85 yards and two scores, the first two of his season. Jordan Scarlett and Feleipe Franks combined for 20 carries and 107 yards as well.
The running game as a whole has been a mixed bag but they’re finding a good 1-2 punch in Scarlett and Perine. That didn’t start until Malik Davis’ season was lost. In the last three games Scarlett (35-163) and Perine (33-156) have carried the ball on 61% of Florida’s running plays.
“It’s always good to have those guys, the depth, to put them in there to bring a little different taste and come at it with full energy and go make plays,” Hevesy said. “It’s always great when different guys can make plays for you.”
For the most part, however, Florida has used the passing game as an extension of the running game and have relied a lot on Franks and the passing game. Franks has either rushed or thrown a pass on 54% of Florida’s plays this season. He’s completing 54.9% of his pass attempts for 1,122 yards, 13 TD and 4 interceptions.
With Vanderbilt on the schedule this week it’s Florida can rely more on the 1-2 punch of Scarlett and Perine. The Commodores are 11th in the SEC allowing 165.17 yards per game and 11th in the SEC allowing 4.38 yards-per-carry.
Florida’s offense has been fine this season (5th in scoring, 10th in total) but they can and should do more in the running game. That can start this week on the road at Vanderbilt.