Gators putting team over personal pride
The Florida Gators are running the football better than any team in the country. Through four games the Gators have 1,290 rushing yards, which leads the country through one month, yet you can't really point to one person that makes the offense go.
"Our running backs, right, I mean, 25 carries, get 150 yards and two touchdowns. So if we didn't rotate them as much that would be a pretty good day for the running back," Dan Mullen said after the win over Tennessee. "So I think those guys doing a pretty good job running the ball as well."
The running back room was one of the most intriguing groups in the offseason. Florida has two redshirt seniors and a redshirt sophomore in Nay'Quan Wright but also two former five-star transfers. The older statesmen should be thinking about their draft stock and impressing scouts for their future. Instead, they become each other's biggest cheerleaders.
"His touchdown is my touchdown. My touchdown is his touchdown. We’re all happy for each other. We’re all brothers in that room," Dameon Pierce said. "Yeah, naturally human nature you want to be selfish, you want all the reps. But we’re all team-oriented guys. We know what’s best for the team. We rotate through.”
It's an impressive dynamic, one that if it were being faked would be evident but when you talk to these players you truly get a sense that they are happy whenever one of the other running backs has success, even when it means that they're watching from the sideline.
Pierce had just 18 carries through the first five games. He was making the most of a smaller workload finding the end zone five times but he wasn't playing as much as Malik Davis. Davis, on the other hand, had nearly doubled Pierce's carries but found the end zone just twice. Wright had the fewest of the three and was yet to score before a beautiful 23-yard touchdown run in the second quarter on Saturday night.
The carries aren't only being split by the running backs either. Until tonight backup quarterback Anthony Richardson was the Gators' leading rusher. Emory Jones takes that throne after his career-best 144-yards on the ground against Tennessee.
Jones had easily his best game in Orange and Blue and admitted that he doesn't. think he'd ever rushed for that many yards, even in high school. Pierce, who is wonderfully colorful in front of a camera told reporters that Jones is just scratching the surface, to which the quarterback agreed.
“I’m definitely just warming up," Jones said. "I’m just trying, I mean everything I’m doing I’ve done before. All my teammates have seen me do all this and more for us. They are confident in me. They trust and believe in me. Like I said, I’m just trying to get better week to week and keep pushing these guys and keep this thing rolling.”
At the end of the season, the Gators won't have an All-SEC running back. It isn't a lack of effort or talent, just the nature of the way the Gators rotate their players. They will, however, have the best rushing attack in the conference, if not the nation, and all of the players involved seem more than happy to have the team success over personal pride.