Florida’s Lamical Perine likes to go on YouTube and watch highlights of some of the top running backs in football.
He’s studying running styles, of course. But he’s also looking at much more than just that. He’s taking in the entire aspect of each back: how they run their pass patterns, how they catch the ball, how they pass protect, how hard they run.
In his quest to become a complete running back, Perine is doing his homework.
“I feel like in all aspects of the game you’ve got to be pretty good to make it to the next level, so that’s something I’ve been trying to add to my game,” the junior said. “I’m trying to be a complete player. Come out of the backfield catching the ball, pass blocking, doing all the little things that can get me on the field. Yeah, it’s something I’m adding to my game a little bit. But I’ve always been able to catch.
“Just make sure I know everything, just the studying, looking at other players, going on YouTube looking at other players and learning from their game. I’ve always been told if you can catch out of the backfield it’s going to take you a long way. It’s something I’ve been working on.”
Perine certainly appears to have the skills, the attitude and the want to to become a complete back.
In fact, he was a complete back on the Gators’ third-quarter touchdown drive at Mississippi State on Saturday night.
Everyone remembers how that drive ended, with a touchdown pass from slot receiver Kadarius Toney to tight end Moral Stephens on a double pass. But before that, it was the Perine drive.
All the other plays were his.
He had a one-yard run, caught an eight-yard pass, rushed for six yards, rushed for 22 yards and caught a 16-yard pass to set up the scoring play.
“Perine’s done a great job since we got here,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “Our backs are similar, but have a slightly different style of how they hit plays. So, it ends up being a little change-up. Perine’s got speed, he’s got make-you-miss and he’s got the physicality to run between the tackles. Does a great job also with pass protection, catches the ball out of the backfield as an all-around running back.
“One of the things we always stress to those guys, it’s not just about, ‘Here’s the ball, go run with it,’ it’s all the other aspects of the position you need to do well. He’s done a great job of that.”
Perine has another quality associated with a complete back — patience and understanding that there are times he’s going to have to share the ball.
That’s the situation he’s in now. He’s sharing reps with junior Jordan Scarlett and true freshman Dameon Pierce.
Through five games, Perine has 29 carries, Scarlett 40 and Pierce 25. The three have combined to rush for 628 yards and four touchdowns and are averaging 6.6 yards a carry.
“You never know (when you’re going to get in the game),” Perine said. “So, once you get out there you’ve just got to make the best of it and just do good. You never know when you’re going to get back out there, really.”
Perine said that despite the uncertainty, and the sharing, the three backs have a good relationship.
“If we were to come out here trying to fight each other for carries, that’s not going to make us any better, you feel me?” he said. “We help each other out and just learn from each other. In the film room we help each other out if one doesn’t know something. We just all try to get each other better. Ain’t no beef between anybody. Everybody loves each other.”
The Gators don’t have a dominant back at the moment. But they’ve got a complete one, maybe even three.
Mullen is fine with that.
“If you look at us this year and say, ‘Boy, I’d love to have a 1,000-yard rusher,’ I don’t know if that’ll be the case for us, but we might have three that have put up really, really good numbers running the ball.
“That may not seem much in an individual game, but as the year goes on, they’re fresh and they can kind of pound away. We have three guys that are physical, can make you miss and have speed, that keep coming at you and can be tough to handle.”