Just over three years ago, senior tailback Lamical Perine purchased a bus ticket from Theodore (Ala.) in order to travel to the University of Florida so he could compete at Friday Night Lights so that the then Florida coaching staff could get a glimpse of his all-purpose talent.
Mississippi State was the only SEC offer at the time for the 5-foot-11, 218-pound back. Coincidentally, Dan Mullen was the man recruiting him to the Bulldogs.
That changed as soon as Perine showcased enough of his raw skill set and earned an offer from the Gators.
He committed to the Orange and Blue soon afterward.
Entering the 2019 season, Perine is the featured tailback and Mullen is certainly happy that the preseason Second Team All-SEC player chose Florida instead of Mississippi State back then.
“(Perine) was a guy that kind of did everything really well,” Mullen said. “And that’s how we used to evaluate and try to get those guys. I’m glad he came there though. Now. It worked out good for me.”
Perine led the Gators in rushing attempts (134), rushing yards (826), yards from scrimmage (996) and total touchdowns (8) just one season ago. He’s a versatile, speedy and physical back that excels using his vision to find any holes in the defense.
More importantly, Perine is an effective pass blocker and his reliable hands allow him to be a threat in the passing game.
Running backs coach Greg Knox acknowledged the senior’s all-around talent and what separates him from other backs.
“Right now, it’s his knowledge. His knowledge and his understanding,” Knox said Tuesday. “When he’s knowledgeable like that, he plays relaxed. When he plays relaxed, he plays very fast and quick. He understands what’s going on, which allows him to play very fast. He plays without thinking, so he’s reacting. That’s good for backs.”
Malik Davis and Dameon Peirce will complement Perine in the backfield. Mullen and his offenses are widely known for sharing the rock amongst the running backs, and these two will provide zero drop-off while in the game.
Davis, who was second in rushing yards as a freshman in 2017, returns from his second season ending injury. He exploded onto the scene his first year on campus, eclipsing 500 yards and providing the Gator nation with a spark in a down year.
Knox recognizes Davis’ arsenal as a back.
“He’s got the same ability as Perine,” Knox said. “He’s got great hands. He can play out in space, and he can beat you inside. He’s a quality back.”
Pierce’s physical appearance mirrors a linebacker. He’s the final piece of this running back group who burst onto the scene in 2018. He had several homerun carries and has the strength to run through virtually any defender in his way.
According to Knox, Pierce’s mental toughness is the biggest improvement early in Fall camp.
“He’s in great shape, not only physically but mentally. So, a day like today he’s mentally tough, whereas he wasn’t last year. A day like today he takes that sun and he blocks it out. He’s mentally tougher and physically tougher.”
In the SEC, it’s vital that a team has multiple options at tailback because of the week in and week out beating the players take. Rotating fresh legs against a tired defense is always beneficial for the run game. Knox recognizes the importance of having several options behind Perine.
“Very important, very important, cause they’re always one injury away. They’re two quality SEC backs.”