Florida running backs coach/special teams coordinator Greg Knox along with running back Malik Davis and Tre'Vez Johnson all met with the media on Wednesday afternoon.
Here are the highlights.
Assistant Coach Greg Knox
- Malik Davis' biggest jump has been mental. He's come back from injury mentally stronger and it helps his confidence. Knox believes is having a great fall camp and getting back to how he was as a freshman in terms of explosion.
- Davis’ pass catching ability allows for the Gators to scheme up for him and create one-on-one matchups against linebackers and other defenders.
- The biggest thing for young running backs is pass protection. It isn't as detailed in high school so the learning curve is big when they get to college. It’s the biggest adjustment in Knox’s mind.
- "He is a very, very good running back, okay? Now, we just have to get him to understand the offense, learn the offense and develop as a young player,” Knox said about Demarkcus Bowman. Bowman is trying to be very detailed in meetings, taking notes, and getting better every day. Knox is excited about him.
- Knox on the steps Lorenzo Lingard’s taken: "I think it's understanding how to read a defense. How to gather information that the defense is giving you and how to process it. I think that's one of the biggest keys with our guys. I think that's why Lorenzo is playing much faster now than he played last year. He's more comfortable in the offense, he can process information and he can use it to his advantage and execute to a high level.” Knox believes the guys who have been in the program can execute at a high level because they're relaxed.
- He said both Lingard and Bowman are home run hitters. If they get into open space, there’s a threat to put the ball in the end zone.
- Knox feels really good about his punter Jeremy Crawshaw’s skill set. The biggest thing with him is consistency. He'll see a 60-yard punt from him than a 30-yarder. The punt team knows his skill set and that he can help flip the field for them.
- Knox said the running backs need to know the blocking scheme. It's not just on the offensive line but also on the backs to know what the scheme is and how they can utilize the blocks. That comes by having patience.
- Knox said they're looking for a guy who can be like Kadarius Toney on returns who can make smart decisions. Fenley Graham is one of the guys they're looking to see can be that.
- On how much his job and the running backs’ roles change as the offense switches: He thinks they will change. The Gators had two No. 1 draft choices in Kadarius Toney and Kyle Pitts last season. He tells his guys all the time they have to step up and be the bell cows. Their approach is to be leaders and carry the offense.
- “I tell them when they first get here, it takes two things to play here. No. 1: you’ve got to protect the ball. No. 2: you’ve got to protect the quarterback. If you can’t do those two things, you can’t play. I can’t justify putting you in the game,” Knox said on the most important things the running backs need to do well and how he gets them to buy into pass blocking.
- They're putting pressure on kickers Jace Christmann and Chris Howard daily. They make it a competition where if one kicker misses then one side of the ball has to run. Both guys have experience and it's going to be a good fight because they're both being competitive.
Running Back Malik Davis
- Malik Davis on him playing with more confidence: It comes from being more knowledgeable. Injuries have kept him from playing football and he's utilizing the reps he has now to really get better. A big thing for him when hurt was not being able to watch himself and critique himself. Now that he's healthy, he can do that. That’s what helped him to up his game
- “We’re a family. I’m not just saying this for the cameras. When you come in there and you hang around us, you’ll see. We’re laughing together all day. We’re joking together all day. We’ll motivate each other. We’re all close, so it’s easy,” Malik Davis on the vibe in the running back room with so many guys looking to get the ball.
- Davis expects big things from the running backs this season. He expects them to run the ball, catch it and protect the quarterback. They can bring a lot to the table.
- "It's not just about talent and what you can do," Malik Davis emphasizes learning is one of the biggest things young players can do when they come in. Executing and knowing your assignment helps build trust and that’s what can get you on the field.
- Davis said tight end Nick Elksnis is tough and shows grit. If a coach wants something done, he's going to try his best to get it done..
- “It's hard but you just have to apply yourself,” Davis said when asked about learning pass protection as a young player. It's important to protect the quarterback. If a guy can't do that, he can't be put in the field.
- The relationship between the quarterback and the running backs on the field is built on chemistry. And it comes from those offseason workouts outside of camp. That can be crucial on the field when plays break down. Dan Mullen tries to put them in situations where they practice their response too.
- Emory Jones' ability to extend plays impressed Davis. He said Jones is able to escape the pocket and create a big play.
- Seeing where the game of football was headed, Davis took it upon himself to grow as a pass-catcher. He said "it's needed and it definitely helps."
Star Tre'Vez Johnson
- A big thing he’s learned with a full offseason under his belt is the work ethic. This training camp was really a grind considering they didn’t have one last season. He enjoys that because he feels it brings the team together.
- Johnson reflects on his performance as a freshman: “I think it could’ve been better. Obviously, I’m not satisfied with how I played. But, right now, I’m just working on improving every day, trying to progress every day and get better every day in one little aspect of my game.”
- The coaching staff was recruiting him to play that STAR position. In high school, he played corner and nickel so he felt he was versatile enough to play it.
- Johnson thinks the defense looks good. There are a lot of leaders and vets out there pushing each other. They're trying to progress more because they have a lot of guys who want to lead and get better every day. Johnson thinks the defense will be a lot more fast, physical and aggressive in 2021.
- It's not hard to want to follow guys like Zach Carter, Trey Dean, and Kaiir Elam because they've been there and gone through it.
- He was asked the toughest thing about playing against someone like Nick Elksnis: Johnson said the toughest part of covering any of the tight ends they have is matching physicality.
- Johnson said he's taken reps at both STAR and the backend. He called it a hybrid position. So, he's generally just trying to improve his game and watch the guys who've played it at a high level whether in college or in the NFL. It's not too much of an adjustment it's just about doing your job.
- Johnson said the mental part of the game is what he really focuses on and tries to improve. Although, he said this offseason he didn’t focus on one specific thing but tried to get better as a whole.