Bountiful backfield: Gators have plenty of talent to open season

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Rising senior running back Lamical Perine is one of many talented players on Florida's 2019 roster. [John Bazemore/Associated Press]

We break down the 2019 Florida football team by position group. This week a look at the offensive backfield.

The upside

At this time a year ago, there was plenty of uncertainty concerning Florida’s backfield situation.

Like, who is the starting quarterback going to be?

And, will there be a dominant, go-to back to carry the load in the running game?

Well, a year later and those two questions are no longer relevant.

Even though Dan Mullen will continue to insist that the competition at quarterback is an ongoing thing, everyone knows junior Feleipe Franks is the guy.

And even though it’s a certainty senior Lamical Perine will be sharing carries with Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis and possibly Iverson Clement, he is clearly Florida’s go-to running back.

Franks earned the starting job at quarterback last August and only solidified his hold on the position the way he improved over the course of the season — and how well he played down the stretch, throwing for 862 yards and accounting for 12 touchdowns in the final four games.

For the season, he threw for 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns with only six interceptions.

He will be pushed in preseason camp by Emory Jones and Kyle Trask, which is a good thing for everyone at the position.

Trask has shown he’s capable of effectively running the offense, and Jones, the perceived quarterback of the future, brings a different element with his playmaking ability as a runner. There’s a chance Jones will get a package of plays to run in each game as his development under Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson continues.

At running back, even though Perine shared carries with Jordan Scarlett and true freshman Dameon Pierce, he still established himself at UF’s best back last season, leading the team in rushing with 826 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 13 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown.

He has a chance to emerge as an elite SEC back in his senior season.

Mullen likes to spread the ball around to his backs to keep fresh legs in the game at all times. He’ll certainly be able to follow that plan again this season, with the great depth at the position with Pierce, Davis, Clement and incoming freshman Nay’Quan Wright.

The downside

Depth is a little bit of a concern at quarterback.

With the departure of freshman Jalon Jones, the Gators will enter the season with only three scholarship quarterbacks — Franks, Trask and Jones. And the way the QBs are asked to be willing runners in the offense, there certainly is the risk of injury, which could really thin out this position in a hurry.

Young guy to watch

Nay’Quan Wright. In a deep backfield, it may be difficult for the true freshman to get many carries, but he’s probably going to get some chances because he brings the home-run element to the running back position with his combination of speed, power and elusiveness.

Don’t be surprised if …

Perine rushes for more than 1,000 yards and has 400-plus yards receiving. His goal since arriving at UF has been to develop into a complete back, and that’s what he has become over the past four years.

He runs, he blocks, he catches — and he does them all well.

He’s going to get enough carries to go over 1,000 yards rushing and could be a huge weapon catching the ball out of the backfield with his good hands and route-running ability.

Quotable

“He’s a competitor. He wants to win. He’s a guy that’s going to fight until he can’t fight anymore. That’s what I admire about him.He’s gotten so much better from a mental standpoint, dealing with social media, fans, things of that nature. Just growing up and being the guy to drive the ship for us. He’s been really good for us and he’s going to continue to be that way.” — wide receiver Josh Hammond on QB Feleipe Franks

Probable depth chart

QB

13-Feleipe Franks

5-Emory Jones OR

11-Kyle Trask

RB

2-Lamical Perine

27-Dameon Pierce

20-Malik Davis

24-Iverson Clement

— Nay’Quan Wright

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.

21 COMMENTS

    • Agree 100% and then some, Sparky. People — well, some anyway — said last year that he only looked good because he would come in later when the defense was tired. Not me, I saw the same thing you did. We are blessed, tho, to have running backs aplenty this season. If the OL comes along like we hope, there should be plenty of “surprises” in the fall. Go Gators!

  1. I got home yesterday in time to watch the fourth quarter of the Peach Bowl replay, and that run by Perine on 3rd and 20 was truly explosive. And I agree with the comments regarding Pierce, but if Davis can stay healthy, I think he is a potential superstar. Not sure of his current status (as of today), but there is a potential recruit out of Dallas that has Emmitt DNA. Hey DallasGator, how did that breakfast (I think that’s what it was) go?

      • I’ve been pondering on this for quite a while, 65. Best I can come up with is that it isn’t meant to be. The press, of course, will make it out to be a slap in Florida’s face…..but we’ve survived bigger disappointments than this.

        • Might feel the pressure of living up to his dad’s past is too much. Emmitt set some high marks for any future RB let alone his own kid. Could be he has advised against it. Knowing that the Gator fan base would be comparing every move he made to what his dad had done. Then again if he came in here and owned it and made something of himself he could be the second in a football family to represent the Gators. I would think he wouldn’t be afraid of competition working with his dad. 247 has him warm on OS that will kill me if he goes there because I would like to see him succeed just not there. Stanford is his other warm school and if he has the grades to get in there he certainly could here. If CDM can get him and he is a worker and willing to earn it here and not on his fathers laurels it could be good if we have a real running attack with a passing game (EJ) should be hitting his stride then with an OL that should be fully filled out. Our defense will be great. I know these young guys are looking at being the STAR of their respective squad if not the team. I have a feeling the reason he is cold on Florida is the moro..(turning a new leaf and not calling names at least for a day) we had before didn’t recruit him. Or his dad advised against the train wreck we were. Regardless unless there is a stunning turn (I’d be glad to see it) I see this not happening.

  2. Forget who ”recruited some of them.” Because this is one of the most talented ”skilled position player groups” on Florida’s roster since Coach Mullen was the O.C. here (2005-’08). And in 1 year, this team’s whole ”belief system” has done a 180. Now it’s time to believe that Florida Football is the ”Beast of the East,” again! And then proceed to dismantle every team in the East division in 2019, especially UGLY U.G.A.! Then let the chips fall where they may… Go Gators! Just win baby!

    • That “belief system” is the glue — the magic, if you will — that holds all that skill, talent, savvy and coaching together. Some teams have it, some teams don’t. Teams that are all skill and no character aren’t, and it all starts with the coach.

      Another good call, GI.

  3. Always felt Perine was the most talented back in the stable from the time he arrived in Gainesville. I share the opinion of Gator-6 and others about Pierce. I think he’s the next “Alpha-dog”. Regarding the conversation on other articles about Emmitt and the RoH, he obviously belongs and is the best runner to ever play for UF. My vote for best all-around back, based on his NFL performance, though, is Neal Anderson. The Bears’ coaches wanted him on the field so much that they started him at fullback in Payton’s final season. Besides leading the way for Sweetness, Anderson got enough carries to gain 650 yards himself, and was even split out wide making tiptoeing sideline catches like a wide-receiver. Check out his highlights on YouTube–impressive.

    • Check that…it was only 586 yards in his second season, but had an impressive 4.5 yds per carry average from the fullback spot. Actually had more yards that season than Payton, who, of course, was aging and playing his last year. Caught over 300 passes for more than 2,700 yards and 20 TD’s in his injury-shortened, 8 year pro career. Only averaged just over 13 carries per game, about 7 per game less than Payton and Emmitt. With comparable carries, Anderson would likely have had over 10,000 yard rushing in his 8 seasons.

      • imo emmitt was better than neal anderson, but i am glad anderson is being mentioned in the conversation. he was a great one. he did have the great wall of florida, including one day nfl hall of famer lomas brown, dan fike, crawford ker, phil bromley, and johnson from lakeland. anderson had to beat out 2 other first rounders, john ll and lorenzo hampton. emmitt had nothing due to the ncaa not liking our coaches doing what other schools were doing at the time. we have since learned doing what others do is not the way, although some fans want us to be UGA south which infuriates me to no end. now i like our backs this year, they are approaching andersons backfield, but we dont have a great wall in front of them, at least not yet. still if our backs block really really well it may not be as bad as i fear it may be.

  4. This will be a great year for RB production for the Gators. Perine should hit his 1k mark without injuries. Davis is the dark horse and was having a stellar freshman year before an injury against GA after seven games with 500 + yards. IMO Pierce is going to wind up with the most rushing yards and Perine the highest total yards. Now we have Clement and Wright, wow what a backfield to have to work with. Felipe is bigger stronger and faster at decision making (I know the six million dollar man ) utilizing Tight Ends quicker with the RB option and always a threat deep or a keeper I would hate to be the defensive coordinators dealing with Mullins calls this year.

    The offensive line will be key if this is a NC caliber team however. About Emmitt’s son, hey I get too whether it’s pressure of living up to the old mans records or wanting to Blaze your own path the most important part is the desire to be a Gator ! That’s what gives you that extra edge when things get tough. I saw this in Pierce last year the first time he hit the field and dismantled a kick of returnee. That GA boy did the Gator chomp and was beside himself with excitement to BE A GATOR. You cant teach this you can only hope its contagious. Rock on Gator Nation dont be surprised if the Red Clay Hounds can’t handle the Giant Water Lizards running attack this year !

  5. well thank you, ive been around a while my pic is from 88 when I thought I was David Hasselhoff lol. Born and raised in Hogtown graduated Buchholz spent a year at Santa Fe. Havent posted much the last 10 years but have had this user name since 96. I have been elated since Dan Mullen came back !!

    • Season is near…….make some time for posting, you won’t find a better group of like minded fellow Gators anywhere. I think you speak for about all of us when you say you’re elated that CDM came back — wish it had been earlier than it was, but the timing was probably wrong anyway. Who knows, maybe there was a purpose to us wandering in the desert for 7 years?