The Running Back Candidates

Coming into the 2007 season a lot of fans, including myself, had high expectations for 6'1, 204 lb running back Mon Williams. Sidelined with a knee injury the first week of practice, Mon will take a medical red shirt season. With the vacancy in the backfield let's take a look at the rest of the candidates

5'10, 208 lb junior Kestahn Moore brings the most experience to the position but was slowed with a hernia injury. In limited time he showed vast improvement and gets the nod at the starting job. Moore brings the best blend of blocking, running and recognition of the blitz. Meyer puts a premium on pass protection from his running backs and this is why Moore gets the edge.

Everyone's favorite from last year is 5'6, 178 lb sophomore Brandon James. James, in a word, is lightning. Time and time again when the Gators needed a big play last year, James provided the team with just that. When Ted Ginn, Jr. took the opening kick off for a touchdown in the BCS title game, it was James who answered right back with a good return of his own to set up the Gators with the answer needed. This year he has shown good burst up the middle and great acceleration getting to the outside. One thing he has been able to do is hide behind the big offensive linemen until he makes his move. James will certainly prove to be a dangerous weapon for the Gators in '07 and has shown he can do great things from the tail back position. In the Orange and Blue game James had two touchdowns.

One player who has taken full advantage of the Mon Williams injury is 5'10, 204 lb red shirt freshman Chevon Walker. Early on he had a week long stretch where he was dominating in practice; consistently breaking long runs. Walker who gained 74 yards on 14 carries in the Orange and Blue game has clearly worked him self into the rotation. Heading into the 2007 season we will see a running back by committee with a rotation of Kesthan Moore, Brandon James and Chevon Walker. The X factor in all of this will be the use of highly decorated incoming true freshman Chris Rainey. Meyer has stated that he will see the field year one and adds that he has the ability to take it to the house each time he touches the ball. Rainey's explosiveness and cut back ability gives Meyer and Mullen the ability to add even more wrinkles to this years offense; one in which most people think will be the strength of the team.

This brings us to the 2008 running back class. One thing that most recruits are looking for is a great relationship with their position coach. Coach Stan Drayton has established those relationships with some of the top backs across the nation. Here are some backs to keep your eye on as we move forward.

5'8, 205 lb Fort Washington (MD), Friendly High School star Josh Haden, brother of Gators corner back Joe Haden, is described as a "Freak of Nature" by his father. He is a true workout warrior and has incredible upper body strength with a 405 lb max bench press. Haden also possesses the ability to break tackles and hits the whole extremely fast. He has a nice combination of power and speed with a 4.34 40 yard dash.

Meyer and staff have been looking for the total package at the running back position. A player who can run north and south, but can maintain enough speed to get to the edge. One who might fit the mold is Seffner (FL), Armwood High School running back Eric Smith. Smith played in only four games as a junior due to an elbow injury. In four games Smith displayed good power and vision gaining 550 yards and 12 touchdowns. Smith has the Gators at the top of his list and plans to make a decision on signing day.

5'10, 213 lb Beverly Hills (MI), Detroit Country Day School running back Jonas Gray also has the Gators near the top of his list. One of the deciding factors for Gray will be the connection that he establishes with the position coach. "I have a great connection with Coach Drayton. He tells me all the time how they need my leadership skills. Coach Drayton also wants to get to know me as a person and that's very important to me."

My Take:
As the recruiting season marches onward we will certainly add and remove players at this position, but as of now these three have the Gators near or at the top of the list. Look for the Gators to take two running backs in this year's class and they could certainly take two of those three. Here are three more to keep an eye on.

Jeff Demps Groveland (FL), South Lake HS 5'10 185 lbs
British Footman Tallahassee (FL), Amos P. Godby HS 5'11 180 lbs
Darrel Scott Ventura (CA), St. Bonaventure HS 6'1 205 lbs

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