Drayton Sees Room For Improvment

University of Florida running backs Coach Stan Drayton fully understands that his unit is under a microscope this year. With Coach Urban Meyer demanding balance between running and passing, Drayton knows his guys have to produce better than the 91 yards they gained against Wyoming. They nearly tripled that against Louisiana Tech but going into tonight's game with Tennessee, Drayton sees plenty of room for improvement.

Florida gained 251 yards rushing last week against Louisiana Tech, a substantially better game than Wyoming. Drayton knows the Gators have the horses at wide receiver and at quarterback to do big damage to opposing defenses but he wants his running backs to make a significant contribution, too.

"I am looking for these guys to start putting this offense on their back a little bit," Drayton said. "I want them to steady the course we are putting them on right now. They have to get better. There has to be improvement in a lot of areas. We had a good showing out there (against Louisiana Tech) but we are nowhere where we need to be. I am just looking for improvement."

The improvement in the running game may have had a lot to do with personnel changes from the first to the second game. Junior DeShawn Wynn was held out of the first game for unspecified reasons but he returned with a vengeance in game two, for 101 yards and two touchdowns while making a spectacular 24-yard catch for a third score. Drayton knows Wynn has it what it takes to be a complete back in this offensive system.

"DeShawn came out there and showed us all what he can do," Drayton said. "He is capable of making big plays, capable of taking the offense to the next level … capable of taking things at the right tempo we are asking him to do. I think there is more to see from DeShawn. It is a matter of continuing to practice hard and keeping the same mindset. He is extremely focused. Those two things are definitely going to make him a great back here."

Markus Manson looks for a hole...

Wynn was awarded Champion's Club status after the Louisiana Tech game for his play. Drayton wants his backs to understand he wants that from one or more of them every week. There is a lot they have to do to earn Champion status.

"That's a big deal," he said. "He has to have consistent play. He has to grade out. He must be an impact in the game to be a champion for the game. He (DeShawn) did all three of those which made him a champion, no question.

Wynn won't be able to carry the load by himself this year and Drayton wants some other running backs to step up. This week Meyer and even Drayton himself have hinted that freshman Markus Manson may be ready to go prime time.

"Markus is coming along great," Drayton said. "You see the potential in that young kid there. He comes into the ball game and changes the speed of the game. He was playing against the backups, but for the last two weeks he is showing that he is starting to mature, and show some toughness. Those were the only two things holding him up from playing time."

After a little more playing time and starting in the Wyoming game, junior Skyler Thornton saw his role diminish a little in game number two. Drayton knows Thornton has a role on this team and is quite capable of playing at the highest level.

"Skyler is a journeyman," he said. "With the scheme of things and the way the flow of the game, Wynn had the hot foot … we kept the guy in who had the hot foot. The rotation got kind of screwed up a little bit. Skyler is a guy that is in the fold and every week has to prove himself to get that playing time. We don't have any doubt in Skyler at all. He is going to be a guy that we count on to play every week."

One surprise so far this year in how well he has performed is true freshman Kestahn Moore. The hard nosed Moore has started the first two games of the season, probably because he does give maximum effort on every play. Drayton has been impressed and a bit surprised by the play his youngest pupil.

"Yes, he has (been a surprise)," he said. "He still makes a freshman mistake now and then but toughness is his strong point. Whatever he lacks in experience and ability he makes up for in toughness. That is football the way I know it and for that reason we will keep him in the game."

For a team with boatloads of skill at the wide receiver position, the running backs have started to step up and make this offense a balanced one. Urban Meyer and Stan Drayton know that balance is the key to making this offense as explosive as it can be and the running backs bring their own gun powder to the show down.

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