Fact or Fiction: Gators will have a 1,000-yard rusher

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Florida running back Dameon Pierce runs in for a 37-yard touchdown against Towson at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Matt Pendleton/Correspondent]

There are truths and untruths in the world of sports. And there are also opinions that are worth discussing. You may agree or disagree. Just do it with decorum. So continues this occasional feature as Pat Dooley and Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun embrace the debate:

Item No. 1

The Gators will have a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since Kelvin Taylor in 2015.

Andreu: The Gators have five scholarship running backs — and they’re all capable of being 1,000-yard rushers. All five — Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, Lorenzo Lingard, Iverson Clement and Nay’Quan Wright — were at that level in high school, and they know what it takes and how it’s done. But UF isn’t going to have a 1,000-yard rusher this season, and maybe not for many seasons to come. For this season (and probably future seasons), the Gators likely are going to have a running back by committee, with three or maybe even four getting carries every game. Because the backs appear close in talent, and Dan Mullen likes his running backs to always have fresh legs. And then there’s Kyle Trask and the passing game. UF’s running game should be better in 2020, but the Gators are still likely going to throw it more than they run it. FICTION.

Dooley: I know that Florida’s goal for the spring was to become a better running team. But there was no spring and even with four starters back on the offensive line, I would bet against a 1,000-yard rusher. It’s difficult to do because you have to get the ball a bunch. Here’s a stat for you. Florida in 2019 divided 235 carries among its running backs. Taylor had 259 carries in ’15 to sneak over the 1,000-yard mark. With all of the options like Emory Jones and Kadarius Toney and a full complement of tailbacks, even if Florida was a better rushing team in 2020, nobody is getting 200 carries. FICTION. 

Item No. 2

ESPN’s popular show GameDay will be at a Florida home game this season after breaking its drought last year.

Andreu: GameDay used to be a regular visitor on the UF campus, and it’s going to get back to being that way if the Gators continue to have success and stay in the top 10 under Dan Mullen. Big, national games at Florida Field are going to be a yearly occurrence, and those are the kind of games that lure GameDay to town. I think there’s a good chance the show will come back this season, for the Oct. 10 LSU game. UF-LSU has become a huge and intense rivalry, and GameDay would only add fuel to what has become a raging fire. FACT.

Dooley: Florida used to be a fixture on the show, but hadn’t made an appearance for a home game in seven years before last season’s Auburn game. The Gators had been on the radar plenty (including last season’s opener), and Florida’s total number of appearances on GameDay ranks third in the country. But there is only one opportunity this year because of Florida’s home schedule and that would be LSU. A lot may depend on the start LSU has and what happens with the teams most likely to compete for the nation’s eyes that day. Texas-Oklahoma and Auburn at Georgia are both that day. FICTION.

 Item No. 3

Fifth-year senior wide receiver Rick Wells is going to have a breakout season.

Andreu: Watching Wells during the spring practice two years ago, I could not help but wonder why he hasn’t been a factor in his time here. He ran good, precise routes, got open, made catches, and was a real deep threat. That talent apparently is going to show up on the field in his senior season. That’s certainly the opinion of the four senior wide receivers from last year’s team. During bowl interviews last December, when they were asked which wide receiver was going to have a breakout season in 2020, they all immediately said Wells. They said he’d really come on in the second half of last season and was lighting it up on the practice field. Now, can he do it on Florida Field? FACT.

Dooley: To quote U.S. hockey coach Herb Brooks, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.” Wells has a chance because of the attrition at wide receiver, but it’s not like there are a bunch of slouches waiting in the wings. It would be a great story (and you know how we root for great stories) if Wells becomes the surprise target for Kyle Trask and Emory Jones. It’s kind of up to him. And we have seen a guy kind of come out of nowhere before at that position. But you can’t help but wonder why it hasn’t shown up in more playing time previously. I think he becomes this year’s Tyrie Cleveland, hustling on special teams and making an impact, but playing second fiddle (or third) to some guys who were better last season. FICTION.