Backfield expected to produce in 2005


Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 3:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 3:16 p.m.

The Florida Gators are going to become a running team?

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With Chris Leak around for another two years, that will probably not happen, but with the current Gator backfield roster and the high school prospects interested in UF, the team could potentially showcase some of the best running backs in the nation.

In his first active year at UF, Deshawn Wynn looked as promising as any young running back in the nation. In 2003, Wynn had 115 carries 540 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

He ran for seven touchdowns, caught another, and had 12 total receptions for 82 yards. Wynn was one part of the dynamic trio to each rush for at least 500 yards.

In 2004, Wynn's playing time, along with his productivity fell off dramatically as Ciatrick Fason took the role as the go-to back, rushing for 1,267 yards on 222 attempts. With Fason gone, Wynn will undoubtedly try to resume his role as the featured back in the UF offense.

As a red-shirt junior and known for his intense work ethic, Wynn should be able to recover from his off year and put up some big numbers for the gators in 2005.

Because of his size and strength, Wynn will likely be most effective for the Gators in short yardage situations.

True sophomore Skyler Thornton rushed for 229 yards on 58 carries and rushed for five touchdowns in 2004. He also caught five receptions for 48 yards.

Though he has received limited playing time due to the depth of the Gator's back field the last two seasons, the departure of Fason puts Thornton in a good position to battle for more carries and playing time in 2005.

Markus Manson could be the breakaway back for the Gators in 2005. Though he did not play a down in 2004 because he was red-shirted, Manson is noted as being a superb athlete and could give Thornton and Wynn a run for the featured back spot for the Gators.

In 2003, Manson was a track star and ranked among the top 50 high school football prospects. He reportedly runs a 4.3 40-yard dash and has a 39.2-inch vertical leap.

High school star Kestahn Moore from Texas verbally committed to UF Tuesday night and is expected to sign on Feb. 2.

The 6-foot, 205-pound Moore rushed for 1,256 yards his senior season. Moore averaged almost 12 yards a carry for his career and also averaged 22 yards per reception and 45 yards per kickoff return.

Moore's high school runs an offense very similar to the one UF coach Urban Meyer used at Utah and is likely to use with the Gators.

This could potentially mean big things for Moore, who is reported to have been highly under-recruited because of his low number of carries in the spread offense.

Tony Wright from Georgia is another outstanding athlete that has committed to play in the Gator's backfield.

He committed to UF before the many coaching changes that took place since the firing of Ron Zook, but said that he still wants to spend his college carrear as a Gator.

There have been questions raised as to whether or not Wright will be academically eligible in 2005, but if he is, his breakaway speed, size and strength should be good edition to the team.

Antone Smith is the top-rated high school running back in the nation and has not yet committed to any school, but visited UF on Jan. 21.

There are rumors that he loved UF and is leaning towards signing. Other options for Smith are Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Miami.

He will be a signing-day decision. In 2004, Smith rushed for 2,814 yards and 44 touchdowns in 12 games and helped Pahokee High School win the Florida 2A state championship.

Smith is a superb athlete with a reported 40-inch vertical leap and a 4.41 40-yard dash.

R.J. Jackson from Texas is scheduled to visit Gainesville on Jan. 28. Jackson is an all-purpose high school player, playing both offense and defense his senior year at Westside High School.

Florida and LSU are his top options, but Jackson has stated that he would like to go to the same school as wide receiver and teammate Brandon La Fell, who has a high interest in the Gators. In 2004, Jackson had over 1,500 all-purpose yards.

With less than a week to go until signing day, many decisions are still to be made, and the Gators appear to be in good shape, but even if UF doesn't get the top running back prospects it is after, the gator backfield is likely to be stacked and something to watch in 2005.

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