GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators have been criticized about their lack of offense for the last few years, with most of the talk surrounding inconsistent quarterback play.
However, during Jim McElwain’s first two seasons at Florida, the real inconsistency has been in the running game.
Just look at the numbers.
In 2016, the Gators ranked last in the SEC and 113th out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in average rushing yards (128.2 yards). Florida was also 113th in 2015, McElwain’s first season with the Gators. In Florida’s eight losses under McElwain, the Gators averaged just 2.4 yards per carry.
There is a good chance Florida can reverse that trend this season. Florida returns its top three runners from last year and has two freshmen who have a chance to make an impact. The Gators also will be fielding the most talented offensive line that Jim McElwain has had to work with during his time in Gainesville.
Here’s a closer look at the Florida running backs:
Jordan Scarlett, junior
Jordan Scarlett is Florida’s top running back and should get the bulk of the carries in 2017. After serving primarily as a backup during his freshman year and then beginning the 2016 season as part of a four-man backfield, Scarlett broke out toward the end of 2016.
He had a team-best 889 rushing yards on 179 carries (5 yards per rush) and 6 touchdowns. Scarlett has the perfect combination of brute strength to get yards after initial contact and top-end speed to break away in the open field.
Lamical Perine, sophomore
Lamical Perine finished his first season at Florida with 421 rushing yards and a touchdown and added 161 receiving yards and a touchdown on 9 catches. He showed his potential early with a pair of 100-yard rushing games against Kentucky (105 yards) and Missouri (106 yards) while serving as a change-of-pace back to Scarlett.
Perine likely will hold the same role this year as Scarlett’s backup, but could see extended time if he gets hot early.
Mark Thompson, redshirt senior
Mark Thompson transferred to Florida from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College last season and was expected to fight for extensive playing time. At 6-foot-2 and 237 pounds, Thompson looks the part of a linebacker in the backfield. However, his inability to hold onto the football limited his playing time.
Thompson finished the year with 299 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, and added 105 receiving yards. Thompson has the potential to make an impact if he can hold onto the ball and stay out of trouble off the field — he’s been cited for marijuana possession in the past. But with Scarlett and Perine ahead of him on the depth chart and a pair of freshmen hot on his tail, Thompson’s touches might be limited.
Tyriek Hopkins, redshirt sophomore
Tyriek Hopkins has not seen the field in his first two years at Florida and likely will be limited to a special teams role in 2017.
Malik Davis, freshman
Malik Davis is a 3-star signee who was ranked as the 25th overall running back prospect in the Class of 2017, according to the 247sports composite. He set the Hillsborough County record with 7,025 career rushing yards during his time at Tampa Jesuit and averaged a staggering 8.5 yards per rushing attempt.
Adarius Lemons, freshman
Adarius Lemons is a 3-star signee who was ranked as the 27th overall running back prospect in the Class of 2017. Lemons rushed for 2,307 yards on 320 carries with 27 total touchdowns (24 rushing) during his high school career.
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