Davis ready to build off last season’s Florida debut

Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks hands off the ball to running back Malik Davis during a practice earlier this month. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

Malik Davis doesn’t want to discuss the knee injury that cut short his freshman season, but it’s the elephant in the room. Maybe there’s a good reason why it’s a topic Davis prefers to avoid: he wasn’t expected to recover as quickly as he has, and everyone wants to know how.

Upon injuring his knee Oct. 29 in the first quarter of Florida’s 42-7 loss to Georgia, Davis said he immediately knew something had gone horribly wrong.

“It was just like a catch and my knee just, just a funny way I landed,” Davis said. “I’ve sprained my knee before. It just felt different. I knew it was something wrong. I didn’t know right away. I actually ran off the field. Then when I got on the sidelines, it started swelling up a little bit.”

While the extent of Davis’ injury has never been fully confirmed — initial reports speculated Davis had suffered significant injuries to both his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments — the season-ending injury devastated him both mentally and physically. But Davis credited those who remained in his corner through the ups and downs with helping him quickly overcome the mental anguish, allowing him to focus on preparing for a comeback.

“It was hard. It was really hard. But like I said, I had a big support system,” Davis said. “They tried to keep me positive, so that’s what I did. I stayed positive.”

Davis is wearing a knee brace in preseason camp, where, despite being cleared to return in June, he’s just beginning to feel like his old self again.

Any athlete who has suffered a major injury can likely concur that returning to the field can be tough from a mental aspect, but Davis said he experienced anxiety rather than nervous feelings.

“Right when camp started, when I first got out there (did I feel 100 percent),” Davis said. “A lot of people say, ‘Are you nervous?’ It’s just anxious. Just ready to do it. I wasn’t nervous. I was ready to get out there and make those cuts, big runs.”

Before the injury, Davis rushed for 526 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. UF coach Dan Mullen praised Davis for his rehab.

“I know he’s been training really hard and working really hard,” Mullen said of the 5-foot-11, 195-pound sophomore. “He’s done a good job. He’s got some talent. He’s got some burst. He can play with power. For a guy that might not look like you’re big, bruising back, can play with power and has speed.”

Davis is just another piece in Florida’s backfield, which could feature more than five running backs in 2018 as UF looks to revive an offense that has been dormant for about nine years yet has found ways to produce in the run game.

“It’s gonna be crazy. It’s like, our backfield is amazing. Our coach (Greg Knox), we have a really good coach. He’s teaching us a lot,” Davis said. “We’ve got a really good understanding of the game this year. We’ll be able to make runs we weren’t able to make last year and make better reads.”

Davis isn’t focused on how the carries are divided or who starts in the backfield. For someone who many prematurely ruled out for the entirety of 2018, Davis is focused on sprinting back on the field while helping revive the program.

“I’m just imagining running out in front of 90,000 people and winning,” Davis said. “That’s all I’m thinking about — winning.”


    • If Davis truly is 100%, I’d like to see him and Scarlett get the majority of the carries. That being said, the coaches are out there every day, and they know better than I who should be getting their number called. If we do indeed have multiple backs capable of giving us quality carries, than I like the idea of pounding the opposing defenses with fresh legs every drive.

    • Wouldn’t call them a monster though. Thompson didn’t do squat and neither did the other Jordan that’s why coach should have gone with Scarlett sooner. Essentially he was taking carries away from the one productive back and giving them to the 2 below average ones.

      • I like to think that CDM and his staff will be smart enough to see who should be getting the majority of the snaps on game days. I tried my best to trust the previous staff to do the same thing. I was usually disappointed.

    • Sly. Totally different backs and a totally different offensive system. What happened in McElwain’s offense should never be compared to anything Mullen’s offense has done or will do I the future. One has a record of complete and utter failure, and the other has a record of winning championships and building explosive offensive teams.

    • Obviously in hindsight, Scarlett was the cream of that crop. Thompson had the size but he just couldn’t hold on to the ball.

      I don’t care who it is, just as long as the backfield is productive. Obviously if they all play well there are not enough balls to go around but fresh legs will be great for the team. To me, the selling point to each back is, you may not carry it 30 times a game, but if you’re productive with your 8-12 carries, you’ll make scouts notice and you’ll save wear and tear on your body. They’ll appreciate that their 4th year in the NFL.

      SoCal mentions Scarlett and Davis but I’d throw Perrine in that group too. He’s had nice runs the past two years. The two freshman (if Clement plays RB and not Safety) might have something to say about that too!

      • Everyone seems to like Perine but I’m not sure why. He has a below average YPA and doesn’t seem to have upper end elusiveness, power or quickness. I don’t pretend to know what to look for in a good running back but I know we’ve had many (as I’ve watched them over the years going back to Eric Rhett) and he doesn’t strike me as one when I watch him. If he wasn’t an upperclassman I would think he’d be much lower on the depth chart.

        I’m not saying that people are talking about him having a thousand yard season or winning the Heisman but I think there are much more talented backs lower in the pecking order. If blocking were equal, he’d be a garbage time player only.

  1. There’s an article on 247sports that says Florida LB suffers injury during practice with a picture of David Reese, but it’s a VIP article that I can’t read. Anyone have any insight on this injury and how serious it is?

        • Yeah, I just read a few of the comments. A high ankle sprain is tough, but not the end of the world. Even if he misses the Kentucky game, we’ve got time to get him back before the real grind begins. Here’s to a quick recovery. Next man up! Go Gators!

          • SoCal. Kentucky is going to be very good this year. They return almost everyone from last year on both sides of the ball, except QB. And the junior college transfer that Mullen tried to sign is lighting it up at QB in practices. The SEC Network people picked Kentucky to win that game on SECNow yesterday.

          • I agree with Tampa… I wouldn’t chalk up UK in the win column just yet (for the 32nd time in a row). UK should’ve beaten the Gators last year and their team is stronger this year by most accounts. It’ll be a tough game.

        • It was serious enough that some of the other players “threw their helmets in disgust” when they saw it happen or found out what happened. I interpret that to mean the players are worried. He’s a good player but more importantly a good leader on a team still searching for leaders.

    • Joe. David Reese I injured his ankle and will likely miss the first game of the year. Likely a high ankle sprain that could linger much further into the season and limit his effectiveness at LB because it will limit his quick lateral movement. If it is a high ankle sprain, he could miss half the season in order to return to near 100 percent, and it is very easy to reinjure the same injury once a player returns. Next man up.

      • Tampa, I agree with Kentucky being a tough opponent. I’ve been blinded by the streak. I’m just hoping we can get him back healthy by October. I don’t want him rushed back and playing on a bum ankle all throughout the season. If all of the reports are true(about all of the running backs being capable), than I am all for the committee approach. All I know is that 9/1 can’t get here soon enough. Get well soon Reese. Go Gators!

      • I think he’s tough enough to play through some of the pain. I mean the guy played with two fractured wrists or something like that his freshman year. Albeit a different injury, different part of the body and different motor functions, I would guess he’s back sooner than most would with a high ankle sprain. I’ve had several of them in the past and couldn’t brush my teeth it bothered me so badly but I’m a big sissy compared to David Reese.

  2. And folks. Lemons is a dynamic running back, and it seems he has gained the understanding of the offense this year. Much simpler lingo than what McElwain used in his offense, which Lemons did not learn well enough to play until late in the season. The guy can scoot and, even though he is not real big, can break tackles and go long. I could see Lemons being used a lot during the second half of games when the opposing defenses start to wear down. And can you imagine Lemons and Pierce pounding in the fourth quarter after Scarlett, Perine, and Davis have pounded the rock for the first three quarters. Could be a dynamic group this year. Then, you have the much improved receiving corp. If Franks makes that big step up, this offense could be exciting to watch. And combine the offense with what is going to be a very good defense, and these Gators could shock some people this year. Not many more days left to see. Go Gators.

  3. I thought he was a great back last year. Seems a shame that he even was put in the game at Georgia when the other guys had no interest in even playing. What a mess. Anyway what’s the word on his blocking and receiving. Hopefully it’s good enough that he gets on the field as he is exciting to watch.

  4. This may be the best group of RB’s (5 or 6) I’ve seen at UF… There have been several groups of RB’s that have been very good and won championships but consisted of only 2-3 RB’s, ( Demps and Rainey as an example) over the years…I’ve just never seen this many real quality RB’s on a UF team…all of these guys can run and run hard…this team could have 2 RB’s that will be close to having 1000 yds rushing each this season…This group of RB’s wouldn’t surprise me to see them lead the league in rushing this year…they are that good! I’m not to worried to much about the offensive line, they too have some talent…Franks at times really made the OL look bad last year because he still holds on to the ball, too long and really has trouble reading the defense and he really has trouble seeing open WR’s… Del Rio didn’t have trouble moving the ball with this line before he got hurt and M Davis averaged 100 yds / game in the 5 straight games he payed before he got hurt in the Ga. game and I’m not counting the first game against Michigan game because he only rushed one time for 8yds. So, I do believe the OL will be able to hold it’s own this year…IF UF can’t score over 40 points in the first game, there will be cause for concern…but, I don’t think that will be an issue this year…I also thinks without a doubt UF wins all of it’s home games this year and takes back the swamp and begins it’s domination in the swamp !!! I for one, am not concerned about Kentucky and don’t think it will be a close game at home…UF wins 32 and the streak will continue. If you were to ask Mullen what team he would rather have this team or the MS team…his honest answer would be this UF team….because of more depth and talent…

    • That’s good news, Cody….and thanks for the clarification on the OL too. Your observations are counted on here with a good deal of weight — I haven’t seen other parties attempt to correct them, which speaks to your credibility — so keep them coming. Know that nobody is 100% on prognostications and you’re under certain constraints, but if you could keep your eye on things up close throughout the season, it would go a long way towards providing balance during some of the tougher times ahead. Thanks….

    • If the QB(s) can make their read, correct decision, and release earlier — as suggested above — it may just work out well as an offense. That gives me hope, Antonio…..but of course, hope is neither a strategy or a tactic and we won’t know for sure until we know for sure.

    • Antonio, it isn’t just the O-line, but play calling and the use of misdirection plays that can help establish the run game. The biggest peeve I have had in recent years is how easy the looks were that our offenses were giving opposing defenses. I could see exactly where the play was going while watching it on tv. If we have QB’s that are having difficulty reading defenses, then defenses will be keying in on our running game. Any little zigs or zags that can be installed into the offense would definitely help as long as it doesn’t confuse our QB’s. GO GATORS!!!