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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

“Home run hitters”: Florida’s 2021 running back room

Running back coach Greg Knox talked Demarkcus Bowman, Lorenzo Lingard and more Wednesday

Malik Davis (pictured) and the Florida running backs are ready to take on the 2021 season by committee, running backs and special teams coach Greg Knox said Wednesday.
Malik Davis (pictured) and the Florida running backs are ready to take on the 2021 season by committee, running backs and special teams coach Greg Knox said Wednesday.

Florida’s running back room gained two popular and promising faces over the last year in former five-star recruits Demarkcus Bowman and Lorenzo Lingard. 

The Gators’ running backs and special teams coach Greg Knox spoke about Bowman and Lingard in his Wednesday media session, and one of his first points was the two young runners’ big play ability.

“If they get in open space, they are a threat to put that ball in the end zone,” Knox said. “They’re home run hitters.”

Bowman, the most recent addition to the crowded backfield, spent his freshman year with Clemson before he announced he’d head south in October. 247Sports ranked Bowman as its third-highest running back and 20th overall prospect in the class of 2020.

Lingard, who spent his freshman season with the Miami Hurricanes before flipping to Florida, spent last season with the program. Despite not seeing much playing time beyond special teams, Knox said the year of practice did wonders for Lingard’s confidence and security within Florida’s scheme.

“I think that’s why Lorenzo is playing much faster now then he did last year,” Knox said. “Because he’s more comfortable in the offense. He can process information, he can use it to his advantage and execute at a high level.”

Knox said comfort in the offensive system and scheme is something he sees in all his returning veteran running backs, listing off the likes of Dameon Pierce and Nay’Quan Wright, among others. He said those long-time runners react rather than think due to their familiarity with the offense.

Those same returning backs saw themselves in the spot of welcoming not one, but two five-star freshman transfers in a 12-month.  Florida fans clamor to see both Lingard and Bowman on the field across social media. When asked how his veterans welcomed the two newest runners into the fold, Knox said it was a smooth transition.

“They have, I’m not going to say accepted it,” Knox said,” but we’ve been a family all along since they got here, so it hasn’t been an issue of accepting them.”

The fourth-year Florida assistant coach said one of those returning backs, redshirt senior Malik Davis, made mental strides this offseason after the back suffered multiple injuries throughout his collegiate career, including season-ending injuries in both 2017 (right knee) and 2018 (broken foot). 

Knox said the fifth-year back’s confidence has returned and he’s performing to a level reminiscent of his breakout 2017 freshman season, when Davis rushed for 526 yards on 79 attempts before his season was cut short.

“He’s back to being explosive when he runs the ball,” Knox said. “I’m seeing that as he hits holes, he is really dynamic through the hole and he’s hitting it with speed and you can see the confidence factor that he has right now.”

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Davis, who also spoke Wednesday, said the biggest benefit of his health is being able to practice and analyze his own reps.

“Being able to watch yourself and coach yourself,” Davis said. “When you’re sitting out, you’re injured, you’re not able to critique yourself and say what you would have (done) here or what you have done there.”

With all the talent Knox spoke so highly of populating his backfield, Knox expressed for Florida fans not to expect a bell-cow back for the 2021 season, but rather a committee of runners cycling in and out.

“It’s not really a one-man show, not a one-man feature,” Knox said. “It’s the versatility of our group and how we use them in our offense.”

Contact Ryan Haley at rhaley@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley.

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Ryan Haley

Ryan Haley is a second-year journalism major with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.


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