Dameon Pierce expected to lead Florida Gators' ground resurgence
In 2020 Gator fans enjoyed one of the most prolific offenses in Florida football history led by Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Kyle Trask and first-round NFL draft picks Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney.
The Gators finished the season with a nation-leading 388.4 yards passing per game. The running game, however, averaged 120.5 yard per game and finished 12th in the SEC ahead of Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
With Trask gone as well as his top three pass catchers from last season, things are expected to look a little different this year.
Senior Dameon Pierce returns to lead what should be a strong stable of running backs in 2021 — a position group head coach Dan Mullen says is his least concerning unit.
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Pierce admitted it was frustrating at times last season as the Gators primarily moved the ball through the air. He said he used that time to improve his pass protection and route running.
“We had a generational quarterback here at Florida and maybe one of the greatest tight ends in the history of college football,” Pierce said.
Despite Florida’s lack of a running game Pierce finished with 503 yards on 106 carries and four touchdowns. He also caught 17 balls for 156 yards and a score.
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And while the Gators are likely to lean on the running game more this season, it won’t necessarily mean more carries for Pierce. Joining Pierce in the backfield are Malik Davis, Nay’Quan Wright, Lorenzo Lingard and Demarkcus Bowman. All are expected to contribute and the breakdown in carries is anyone’s guess.
“When you look at our running back stats as a whole position group, they’re pretty good and maybe not one guy gets all the stats, and everybody else gets nothing,” Mullen said. “It’s allowed us to be pretty successful over the last several years, and guys having the opportunity here as well as the opportunity beyond here because of how we’ve done things.”
Pierce said he has no problem sharing the load with his fellow running backs.
“All five of us are dangerous, so don’t go out there lacking,” he said. “You can't break 80 yards if you're tired with dead legs, man. So I'm alright with being fresh when I go out there.”
With such talent at his disposal, Mullen hinted that fans can expect to see packages with multiple running backs this year.
"Oh, you know that makes me feel excited, that means we got more plays drawn up,” Pierce said.