Countdown to Camp: Running Backs

The Gators have some options in the backfield, including their top three rushers from the 2016 season. As a sophomore, Jordan Scarlett led the Gators with 889 rushing yards and six touchdowns. * Part 2

RUNNING BACKS

They’re back: Jordan Scarlett (5-10, 213, Junior.); Lamical Perine (5-11, 221, Sophomore); Mark Thompson (6-2, 237, Senior).

Fresh faces: Adarius Lemons (6-0, 200, Freshman); Malik Davis (5-11, 195, Freshman). Lamical Perine had a pair of 100-yard rushing games as a true freshman in 2016. Overview: As every Florida fan is well aware, the Gators finished last in the Southeastern Conference in total offense last season (344.0 yards per game) and the unit’s inability to mount consistency on the ground — 128.2 yards per game, also last in the league — was one of the main culprits. Obviously, that needs to change. Scarlett had a very good season in 2016, despite starting the year as a backup and sharing the running-game load with Perine and Thompson before seizing control of the No. 1 tailback spot. His 179 carries were nearly twice that of UF’s second-leading rusher and he totaled 889 yards (the most by a UF freshman or sophomore since 1995) and six touchdowns. Scarlett averaged 5.0 per carry and at one point scored a rushing TD in six consecutive games. He’s evasive and possesses breakaway speed. According to Pro Football Focus, Scarlett forced 50 missed tackles, which was the most among any returning Power Five conference running back with fewer than 200 carries. Scarlett will start the season on the Doak Walker Award watch list for the nation’s best back. Perine (91 carries, 421 yards, 1 TD) had a nice debut season as a true freshman and change-of-pace back, including two 100-yard games. Along the way, he also became just the fifth UF player in the last 20 years to rush for a TD and catch one in the same game. Thompson (68 carries, 299 yards, 2 TDs) flashed some moments —none bigger than his 85-yard touchdown off a screen pass in the win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl — but the former JuCo All-American came to UF with a reputation for ball-security issues, and they showed up at times in his first Division-I season. Of the two freshmen, Davis has some jaw-dropping stats, having rushed for 2,469 yards and 33 touchdowns in helping lead Tampa Jesuit to the Class 5A state title game. Lemons did not approach those numbers, but don’t count him out. Also of note: Florida also has a new running backs coach in Ja’Juan Seider , by way of West Virginia. Seider was a standout quarterback from Belle Glade, Fla., and won the Jake Gaither Award (considered the Heisman Trophy for historically black colleges) as a senior at Florida A&M.

If the season started today: Scarlett is the guy and deserves to be. That doesn’t mean Perine and Thompson won’t get their share of touches, but Scarlett proved to be, wire to wire, the most […]