There’s been much talk in Gainesville about UF’s quarterback situation. Supporters and detractors of starting quarterback Feleipe Franks have often discussed whether his impact on Florida’s offense is a positive or a negative one, and any good or bad day it has is typically analyzed through the lens of the quarterback position.
Much of Florida’s offensive success last year, however, came at the hands of its running game. The UF backfield averaged 213.3 yards per game last year – just barely under the 213.5 from UF’s passing offense – and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Fans can expect similar numbers this year, as most of the core group that made it happen in 2018 will make up the backfield once more.
The Gators’ true bell cow is Lamical Perine. Last season, he notched 826 yards, seven touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards a carry, the latter of which was the SEC’s eighth best. Perine was also one of two UF running backs to record a receiving touchdown last year and the sole member of the group to eclipse 100 receiving yards (170). Perine will almost certainly be Florida’s lead back, and his ability to be a threat in both the running and passing game should once again bode well for the Gators.
Another notable returning player is Malik Davis, who sustained a season-ending knee injury after playing just three games last year. He’ll hope to play his first full season in a Gators uniform in 2019, as his season was also cut short two years ago after a season-ending foot injury against Georgia. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry over seven games and ran for two touchdowns during his 2017 campaign.
With the departure of Jordan Scarlett to the Carolina Panthers, it’s likely that sophomore Dameon Pierce will see a larger role in Florida’s running game. Pierce had the second-most yards per carry for running backs on the team with 6.1 and was third in yards behind Scarlett with 424. Pierce was the other UF running back to catch a touchdown last year, and he should be a solid compliment to Perine and Davis in 2019.
Florida also has some freshman talent to accommodate its returning running backs. The most notable running back recruit is Nay’Quan Wright, a four-star signee out of Miami Carol City. Wright was ESPN’s 22nd ranked running back in the 2019 class, and he combined for 1,793 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns in his freshman and sophomore seasons of high school football.
Aside from Scarlett’s departure, the Gators’ consistency in the backfield should bode well for them in Dan Mullen’s second season as head coach. The returning squad is likely to open up the passing game, and should Franks capitalize on a somewhat strong end to his season last year, UF’s offense could improve exponentially for its 2019 campaign.
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected].