Watch & Read: New year for running back room

Mar 9, 2023 | 1 comment

The Florida Gators football team on Thursday held their third spring practice of the season. Following the practice, associate head coach and running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, running back Montrell Johnson, and defensive lineman Justus Boone met with the media to discuss the spring practices.

Here are the main takeaways:

Running Back Coach Jabbar Juluke

  • Florida’s newest addition to the room is Cam Carroll, who transferred from Tulane. Juluke spoke briefly about his recruitment and admitted that it was a tough sell due to Johnson and Trevor Etienne returning and Treyaun Webb early enrolling. However, Carroll wasn’t afraid of the challenge. “Most guys would not want to come here. Cam was interested in the challenge, you know, he wanted to compete,” Juluke said. “He was told that from the beginning, right? And then, Ray Charles can see that [Johnson and Etienne] have production.” Juluke said that he’s got great athletic ability and understands the game, but needs to continue adjusting to using Florida’s terminology instead of Tulane’s.
  • Florida’s offense will experience change after Anthony Richardson’s departure to the NFL, especially in the run game. The running backs will have a larger load in the season. Juluke joked that the running backs didn’t do “a good job recruiting [Richardson]” to stay. He explained that the change means that the dynamic changes, so the leadership in the room needs to be more vocal. He also added that Graham Mertz and Jack Miller III run the ball well and can run when needed, but they can’t be like Richardson.
  • Juluke spoke about Johnson’s and Etienne’s leadership and explained that it’s the most important thing they can improve this year. “Have to be leaders, have to be more vocal leaders, have to understand that they can’t get away with not doing the little things correctly all the time,” he said. He added that they can improve on pass protection more and continue to have a better understanding of defenses, but that’ll come as the game continues to slow down for them.
  • During the offseason, Florida lost four of their five main starters on the offensive line, but were able to bring in three transfers – Micah Mazzccua from Baylor, Kiyaunta Goodwin from Kentucky, and Dameion George Jr. from Alabama – to alleviate the losses. “Last year, you know, we had some good continuity. We rushed the ball — I don’t know the exact numbers, you guys may know better than me — but I thought we did really well rushing the ball. And I think that we’re going to continue to do so, that we’re going to hang our hat on it and we want to continue to be successful doing it,” Juluke said.
  • Juluke spent a good amount of time talking about the running backs’ roles in the passing game. On catching, Juluke said it can be a strength for the group. He added that he was “pleasantly surprised” with Treyaun Webb’s pass-catching. “First and foremost, you have to have good guys that want to compete with one another, that’s not afraid to compete. We challenge each other every day. So, I think we’re gonna be helpful in the passing game as well,” he said.
  • As far as the future is concerned, Juluke said he’s not sure if they will pursue another running back when the transfer portal reopens in May. “We’re not going to just take a guy just to say that we’re taking a guy, you know,” he said. “We want to make sure that it’s a right fit that comes about. But we have not talked about it, you know what I’m saying.” Napier’s teams usually have five scholarship running backs, but the Gators only have four at the moment.


Running Back Montrell Johnson Jr.

  • Johnson also spoke about the leadership role he and Etienne are taking and explained that it’s difficult for him because he’s a quiet person. “I like to lead by example so I’ve got to step out the box and be a leader for the team,” he said. He added that part of this is to help early enrollee Treyaun Webb and transfer Carroll learn the playbook and be comfortable in the offense.
  • On Carroll, Johnson said that Carroll’s multi-year experience at Tulane has actually helped him out. “… he has a lot of experience and I’m kind of talking to him about kind of soaking that energy because he’s been at Tulane for about four years and I’m just trying to get that wisdom from him,” Johnson said.
  • Johnson also spoke on the new offensive line. “Bringing in new o-lineman I just think that’s a great start for us, so far they’ve been showing me great things,” Johnson said. “Not much different from last year’s o-line they’ve been great in pass blocking, run blocking and I’m excited to see what we do during the season.” He added that they are establishing chemistry with each other, which starts with building bonds off the field.
  • With Richardson’s departure to the NFL, the Gators brought in Wisconsin transfer Mertz to replace him. Johnson spoke on what he’s seen from Mertz in comparison to Richardson, who was in attendance for the practice and Johnson’s portion of the press conference. “Working with Graham he’s always you know asking about what we did last year with Anthony, he wants to know the right reads, the right pass protection so I’m kind of like helping with that,” Johnson said.
  • At the end, Richardson got to ask Johnson a question and asked how it felt to be one of the top running backs in the country. “I think I’ve got a long way from being that,” Johnson told his former quarterback. “I like to hold myself (to a high standard) a lot of times and I think I’ve got a lot of work to do to become that.”

Defensive End Justus Boone

  • After Patrick Toney’s departure to the NFL, Napier hired Austin Armstrong to be the new defensive coordinator. “A lot of high energy. A lot of running up and down the field,” Boone said of his new coordinator. “Constantly yelling. Not all bad stuff. Good stuff most of the time.” He added that the verbiage has mostly stayed the same with a few differences here and there.
  • Florida brought in three early enrollees at the defensive end/OLB spot in Kelby Collins, Kamran James, and TJ Searcy. So far, Boone has been impressed with the youngsters, and he sees this as a leadership opportunity. “They picked up everything pretty good. I try to be a leader for them. Show them the example, but for the most part, they’ve been good.” Specifically, they’ve impressed on adjusting to runs.
  • With it being the first day in shells, the offensive line and the defensive line got to line up against each other. Boone said that everyone has been “sharp” for the most part. He added that both lines look different considering the sizes of most of the newcomers, saying that he’s been impressed with how the OL transfers have done in brief matchups. “We got some statues on both sides,” he said. “I don’t have too much to say. [The new offensive linemen] been playing their part.”
  • Defensively, the Gators brought in two transfers on the defensive line in Caleb Banks from Louisville and Cam’Ron Jackson from Memphis. Boone said that both move well at their sizes – both stand at six feet six inches with Banks weighing 315 pounds and Jackson weighing 355 pounds – and that Banks has the potential to be a great pass rusher. Jackson also brings vast playing experience, and Boone said this will help the younger defensive core of Chris McClellan and Desmond Watson.
  • This offseason, positions on the defense have been adjusted, and Boone said he’s making his own adjustments. Positionally, the JACK linebackers and defensive ends have been combined into one group, Boone said. Personally, Boone said that his focus this offseason has been to eliminate body fat while adding muscle.

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