Gators notebook: Wright talks RB rotation, UF resembling Ravens on offense

Zach Abolverdi
The Gainesville Sun
Florida running back Nay'Quan Wright tries to break a tackle attempt by an Alabama defender during the SEC Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta last December.

Former Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson last season joked that he was turning Kyle Trask into Lamar Jackson.

Trask led the nation in passing yards and touchdowns, but was a willing runner as well. He had 44 carries for 166 yards excluding his sacks, scoring three times. 

His successor, Emory Jones, will provide even more rushing production at quarterback. Jones ran for 217 yards on 32 attempts and two scores in 2020. 

Running back Nay’Quan Wright made a reference to Jackson — only he wasn’t joking around — when asked how the Gators look on offense with Jones.

“Pretty much like the Ravens. That’s really how the offense is going to look, basically how the Ravens looked when Lamar first came in,” Wright said. “They say he can’t pass, but he can pass. People say Emory can’t pass, and he’s going to show them he can pass.

"The read option is going to be there. You’ve got to pick your poison. Which one are you going to give us? Both of us are dangerous, the quarterback or the running back.”

Interestingly enough, new UF quarterbacks Garrick McGee coached Jackson at Louisville. McGee spoke with The Sun last week about building his offense around the future NFL MVP, an experience he has discussed with Jones.

“It definitely is exciting that he got to coach someone like that,” Jones said of McGee working with Jackson. “He definitely tries to tell us things he did to help him out when he was at college. So we are just learning from him and just trying to get better.”

More:Garrick McGee details process of recruiting QBs with Florida's Dan Mullen

Jones' strong arm:Mullen lauds Jones' arm strength, details first scrimmage

After a pass-heavy attack last season with Trask, Wright said the Gators will run more this year and won’t be one dimensional on offense. As a tailback, he’s looking forward to the change. 

“I kind of like it,” Wright said. “I think we can throw and run, so it will be pretty good because we have running backs who can catch and receivers who can run the ball also. So it will be an interesting one.

“If you’re going to contain the quarterback, then the running back’s going to take it. If you’re going to contain the running back, then the quarterback’s going to go the distance. It puts a lot of stress on the defense.”

Davis, Wright on run game

Wright and running back Malik Davis echoed the comments Monday from Florida coach Dan Mullen about the ground game getting "a lot better" this spring. 

Davis attributed some of the improvement to the offensive line’s run blocking and development. 

“I definitely think it’s improving,” Davis said of the run game. “Not only the running backs, but the blocking scheme with the O-line. Guys are getting older and maturing and just understanding the detail, understanding why they’re doing certain things, which makes everything work.

“I think the sky is the limit. We’ve got guys returning and got experienced guys. So we’re definitely excited to get out there and see what we can do.”

Davis led UF’s backs last season in total yards (687), followed by Dameon Pierce (659 yards) and Wright (432 yards). Davis and Wright both finished with more yards receiving (377, 219) than rushing (310, 213). 

Davis had three straight games with a catch of 30 yards or more, while Wright made a 50-yard reception in Florida’s win over Georgia. Wright wants to make more of an impact this year, though he expects all of the backs to be involved in the rotation. 

“Everybody can play the position. Nobody will just have to stay in the backfield, like all of us can play in the backfield and go in the slot,” Wright said. “Watching some plays I did, I think I could have done better. But that’s why I’m here in the spring grinding every day and just building, one day after another.”

UF releasing two-hour show

Gators fans will get a behind-the-scenes look at spring football with a two-hour spring access show on SEC Network, featuring exclusive content from practice. Air times for the show will be announced at a later date.

Florida’s Pro Day, which is scheduled for March 31, will also be televised on SEC Network during a four-hour block starting at 11 a.m. Gator Great Chris Doering will report live from inside the indoor practice facility as show host Peter Burns and analyst Roman Harper join him from the studio.