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Florida Running Back Spring Preview: Pierce ready for a bigger role

March 8, 2019
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FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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The Florida Gators are preparing for year two under Dan Mullen with significant hype after a 10 win 2018 season with a New Years Six bowl victory over Michigan. The Gators will begin preparations for 2019 with spring practice, which kicks off on March 12. In anticipation, Inside the Gators takes a look at every position; who’s returning, what needs to be proven and more. Up today are the running backs. 

Main Participants 

  • LaMical Perine
  • Dameon Pierce
  • Malik Davis 
  • Iverson Clement 

Out this spring 

  • None

Arriving this summer 

  • Nay'Quan Wright 

Departed

  • Jordan Scarlett 

Key Question: Who will take the spot behind Perine 
It's a pretty sure bet that upcoming senior LaMical Perine will be the bellcow. He's the returning leading rusher and productive play maker. Head coach Dan Mullen and position coach Greg Knox like to use a consistent rotation of two backs though so the battle behind Perine could become the biggest question mark to watch in the spring. Dameon Pierce is coming off a great freshman campaign but Malik Davis is looking to make the impact he's long had the potential to do. That second running back is still a huge role in this offense so it will be a vital position to shore up this offseason. 

Something to Prove: Malik Davis 
As mentioned above, Davis has been a bundle of potential his entire Gators career but it's been marred by injuries that have kept him sidelined. If he hopes to be more than a one hit wonder, this will be the season he needs to make it through without roadblocks. Granted injuries are not really in his control, but he does need to use this spring to remind everyone, including coaches, what he can do before Pierce and others take his place. 

He could surprise: Iverson Clement 
Clement is a guy we haven't seen much of as he redshirted his first year and was used for bodies at other positions even at times. But he's consistently someone teammates mention as a silent threat. During practice drills he's showcased a skill for catching out of the backfield and if he can bring a different element like that to the game, he could become a nice surprise for this unit. 

Keep an eye out for: The amount of rushing packages 
Last year the running backs were the more productive offensive unit, thanks in part to the addition of Feliepe Franks legs. However, with the receiving corps returning nearly everyone and after another year with this playbook, it will be interesting to see if coaches still lean as heavily on the backs. 

Florida Running Back Spring Preview: Pierce ready for a bigger role

7,945 Views | 7 Replies | Last: 3 yr ago by Eric-UF
upstateg8tor
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This is the best position we have been in when it comes to skill players since entering the 2009 season. I don't know how you manage that backfield. Perine has been the 'Steady Eddie' since he's been on campus ...not electric, but ultra-dependable at so many things and he gets the job done. Pierce looks the part in his limited role last year but can he expand his portfolio to match Perine. Davis has shown flashes but doesn't have the durability to handle 10+ carries a game. This is how I see the work load next season, thru 13 games ...

Perine ....160 carries (1,066)
Pierce ....120. (770)
Franks ...120. (339)
Davis .....70. (347)
Toney ....30. (277)
Everyone else ...25. (122)

That is roughly 60 more carries than last year. Which seems about right.

With the added production from Franks in the passing game there won't be as many wasted passing opportunities. Which will allow us more rushing opportunities. And we know this offense loves to run the ball.
Eric-UF
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Pretty good breakdown!
---Go Gators!
Sjerry1
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So, with every receiver back from last year & Frank's coming off of a break out season you think we're going to run 60 more carries than last year?
G8rJD
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He's gonna get 60 more carries because Scarlett is gone
JD
upstateg8tor
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Sjerry1 said:

So, with every receiver back from last year & Frank's coming off of a break out season you think we're going to run 60 more carries than last year?

Yes. We will get 60 more carries because the passing game IS more effective. Half the games last year we had drives stalled early because our passing game sputtered and LOTS of 3/4 & outs. We had 3 games with less than 55 offensive snaps. Franks will keep drives alive more often allowing for more opportunities. I don't think we'll see more pass attempts, just better production on the number of attempts already taken.
Eric-UF
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Sjerry1 said:

So, with every receiver back from last year & Frank's coming off of a break out season you think we're going to run 60 more carries than last year?
First, I don't think the number of carries is what is important in his breakout, as much as the distributions. Second, given that Mullen has a "run first" mentality, I would not expect Florida to ramp up the passing attack any more than that have to.

In fact, you could argue that an improve passing game allows the team to run more because they will not be "forced" into passing situations as often if the defense is not able to stack to box to stop the run (because they do not fear that pass).

Having said all that, I am not holding my breadth that Franks is going to be "that" improved over last year. He did a lot of good things last year, but he was still very limited as a passing QB. Hopefully he progresses and elevates the offense and takes them to the next level....but I still see this offense as a 65/35 run based team with respect to play calling.
---Go Gators!
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