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Florida Gators 2020 preview: Quarterbacks and running backs

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask passes against Florida State at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in the Nov. 30, 2019 game.

We break down the 2020 Florida football team by position group. This week a look at the offensive backfield.

The upside

The Gators have the leading returning quarterback in the SEC in senior Kyle Trask, and the feeling is he could experience a considerable bump in his second year as the starter under Dan Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson.

His first season was impressive enough. He came off the bench to rescue the Gators in the second half at Kentucky and then went on to help the Gators go 11-2, throwing for 2,941 yards and 25 touchdowns to go along with only seven interceptions.

Trask consistently managed and moved the offense despite the fact the Gators had basically no running game last season.

Trask’s passing numbers actually could come down this season for two main reasons.

One, Mullen is serious about getting sophomore quarterback Emory Jones more involved in the offense, giving him more of the playbook and more playing time. That would mean fewer game reps for Trask.

Jones is a dynamic dual-threat guy who seems to fit the mold of a Mullen quarterback. When he was in games last season, his presence and threat as a runner helped get the Gators’ ground game going. He’s expected to get more opportunities in the passing game in 2020.

 The second reason Trask’s numbers could have a dip is the fact the Gators should be better and more consistent running the football. The line has more experience now and should be able to generate more of a push, and UF has a talented — and intriguing — running back room.

The running back everyone wants to see is Lorenzo Lingard, the Miami transfer and former five-star recruit who has gained immediate eligibility from the NCAA. If he is healthy, and can stay healthy, he could bring a big, game-breaking boost to the backfield.

He’ll have to earn his carries. Juniors Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis are proven players who have made big plays over the past two years. Davis appeared on the cusp of being UF’s go-to back as a true freshman in 2017 before his career was slowed by injuries (knee and foot). He’s healthy now and the coaches are eager to see how that translates on the practice field this month.

Sophomore Iverson Clement and redshirt freshman Na'Quan Wright bring depth to the position. 

Overall, Trask, Jones and those five running backs bring a lot of potential firepower to the backfield.

The downside

The Gators appear to have a lot of talent at running back, but many around the country heading into the season are questioning whether there is a dynamic player in the group.

Ranking the SEC backfields

  1. Georgia

  2. Alabama

  3. Florida

  4. Texas A&M

  5. Mississippi State

  6. Auburn

  7. Tennessee

  8. Ole Miss

  9. Kentucky

  10. LSU

  11. Arkansas

  12. South Carolina

  13. Missouri

  14. Vanderbilt

Pierce and Davis have shown flashes, but have lacked consistency. Lingard, who appears to have a high ceiling, must stay healthy, something he was unable to do at UM.

With a true freshman being one of the only three scholarship quarterbacks, depth is somewhat of a concern at the most important position on the field.

Young guy to watch

Na’Quan Wright. The redshirt freshman likely opened preseason camp at the bottom of the depth chart, but the coaches like his quickness, speed and potential home-run hitting ability and he’ll have a chance to make a move if he can make some things happen in those scrimmages. Wright is a player who really needed spring practice to get more reps and gain confidence. He’ll try to make up for it in camp.

Don’t be surprised if …

A dominant, go-to running back emerges over the course of the season. With the talent and depth at the position, the running game probably will be by committee at the start of the season, to keep fresh legs in the position and give everyone an opportunity. But if one of the backs gets a hot hand — and one probably will — he could end up getting the bulk of the carries.

Quotable

“(Trask) has spent every offseason preparing. He prepared himself to be ready to go. And hopefully both he and Emory have done that this year to continue to get prepared and be ready to go for that moment when their number is called to get out on the field. Both of those guys have experience in games now. It’s great to have some experience. When you look, after that with Anthony (Richardson), he’s the one to me that missing spring right now, it’s going to be a little bit of a different curve. But the other two, having that experience, having veteran players returning, I feel pretty comfortable that they’re going to be prepared for the season and ready to go.” — Dan Mullen

Probable depth chart

QB

11-Kyle Trask

5-Emory Jones

— Anthony Richardson

9-Luke Matthews

RB

27-Dameon Pierce

20-Malik Davis

21-Lorenzo Lingard

24-Iverson Clement

6-Nay’Quan Wright