Who will be UF's 1,000-yard back?
Published: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 13, 2011 at 11:47 p.m.
Florida hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.
Yes, the six-year Urban Meyer era ended without a 1,000-yard running back. This wasn't a knock on Florida's offense, which for the most part ran the ball effectively with Meyer at the helm. It's just that Meyer spread the wealth, with quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Percy Harvin carrying the ball nearly as often as his tailbacks.
Could a feature back emerge this season? New Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis comes from an NFL background that values backs that carry the ball 20 or more times per game.
Here's a look current Florida running backs that could potentially break the 1,000-yard plateau, either next season or in the future:
Chris Rainey — Rainey projects to get the load of carries for Florida next season, but at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, durability could be an issue for the fifth-year senior from Lakeland. Rainey rushed for 366 yards last season despite missing five games due to a disciplinary suspension. His only chance to break the 1,000-yard barrier will come next season.
Jeff Demps — Demps was on pace to break 1,000 yards rushing before a foot injury in late September against Tennessee derailed his season. The speedy track star still finished with a team-high 551 yards but was never the same after carrying the ball a career-high 26 times against the Vols. Demps is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball, but his size (5-foot-8, 181 pounds) makes durability an issue.
Mike Gillislee — Gillislee is the toughest runner on the Florida roster. The junior from DeLand emerged as more of a short-yardage specialist last season, rushing for 7 TDs. He could become the feature back for the Gators in 2012 if he can avoid injuries. Gillislee was sidelined with a broken foot this past spring.
Trey Burton — Two Florida head coaches (Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp) have raved about Burton's intelligence and practice habits. The converted quarterback ran for 349 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Burton is a multi-dimensional threat who will fit into Weis' offense well because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Mack Brown — The jury remains out on Brown, who missed this spring with a broken fibula. The four-star recruit from Lithonia, Ga., has some promise, but was unable to contribute as a true freshman last season. Brown will get plenty of time to absorb Weis' offense and could be a darkhorse to gain 1,000 yards down the road. Just don't expect it next season.
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