FNL Preview: Running Backs

Fresh off a national title and Southeastern Conference Championship, the Florida Gators are optimistic heading into the 2007 season. Coach Urban Meyer will field his fastest ever team in '07 and looks to add even more speed with the addition of the 2008 class. While the Gators are trying to replace the talent lost on the defensive side of the ball, all the head Gator wants is a running back.

I believe that the Gators are looking for two running backs in the class of '08. One typical type fullback and one all purpose running back. Today, I start by breaking down the running back situation based on who I am hearing will attend Friday Night Lights.

At the top of the list, it should be no secret that Florida is looking hard at the number one running back in the country and the number four overall rated player in Darrell Scott. Scott is from Ventura (Cali.) Saint Bonaventure High School and has everything that the staff is looking for. Cutback ability, power and vision are what Scott brings to the table along with his 4.32 speed. Last season, Scott rushed for close to 3,200 yards and 45 touchdowns. He averaged close to 10 yards per carry on 337 carries. He is 6-1 and 203-pounds and could easily carry another 10-pounds on his frame while maintaining his speed. The staff would absolutely love to have Scott make the trip in for Friday Night Lights. Depending on whom you listen to, there are conflicting reports on whether or not Scott actually makes it in for the July 20 camp. I have him at the top of the board because coach Meyer has taken a very personal interest in recruiting Scott himself. If it is that important to Coach Meyer, then I believe it warrants being at the top of my list. Right now, I think it is 50/50 on Scott making it in for the camp.

After Darrell Scott, the next set of running backs are interchangeable, and I think the rankings will reflect that. Just missing the Scout.Com Top 100 is running back Jonas Gray. Gray comes in at No. 102 in the country and is listed as the 10th best running back in the nation. Gray, from Beverly Hills (Mi.) Detroit Country Day School is 5-11 and 214-pounds and answered any questions about his speed running a 4.35 forty at a recent combine. He has power, size and great tackle breaking ability. In only seven games during his junior season, Gray rushed for 1,252 yards and 19 touchdowns. Many believe that it will be a Michigan/Michigan State battle for his services. All I can say is that Florida is a serious contender for Jonas Gray. Gray is in the process of talking to running backs coach Stan Drayton about attending Friday Night Lights.

Ranked No. 116 in the country is the number 11th-ranked running back Jamie Harper. Harper, from Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian Academy is 6-0 and 205-pounds with 4.35 speed. Notice a theme here? Harper might possess the best overall breakaway speed and has tremendous power and vision. Harper is the kind of back that can make the defense look just plain silly. He can run by you or through you and stop on a dime. Harper totaled 1,400 all-purpose yards with 19 touchdowns last season. He will be in Gainesville for Friday Night Lights. Many believe that Harper is at the top of the running back board for the Gators. Florida State could be a dark horse.

Just like the previously mentioned running backs, our next back can do it all. Covaughn Deboskie is the No. 127 ranked player and the No. 14 running back in the country. From Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton High School, Deboskie is exactly 5-11.5 and 192-pounds with 4.38 speed. He might have the best instincts of the group as well as a tremendous burst through the hole and cutback ability. Deboskie has great leadership abilities and a fantastic work ethic. He is the kind of player that coaches love to coach. Deboskie finished his junior season with 1,304 yards rushing with 22 touchdowns and added 414 yards receiving with two more touchdowns. This on a team that was loaded with talented players like wide receiver Gerrell Robinson. Deboskie is a fantastic person and a real pleasure to talk with. Hamilton High School has a team function on July 20, and it's unknown at this time if he will be allowed to make the trip for Friday Night Lights. He could be a tough pull from the California schools. Deboskie is doing all that he can to be able to be in Gainesville on July 20.

One back that has sky rocketed up the running back board is three-star running back Franklin Green. Green is listed at 5-11 and 200-pounds with 4.45 speed. Green rushed for 1,822 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. From Savannah (Ga.) Jenkins High School, Green is a much better back than most people think. He has good size and speed and is very elusive in the open field. The Florida staff was very impressed with Green during individual workouts in Gainesville. Green is teammates with defensive end Chaz Sutton who is taking a long hard look at Florida. Green was very close to pulling the trigger to Florida on his visit but decided not to based on conversations he had with his head coach. It's a three way battle with South Carolina and Rutgers with the Gators on top at this point.

A couple more names to keep an eye out for that might pop up at Friday Night Lights:

  • Cyrus Gray is one of the top running backs from the state of Texas. Gray, from DeSoto (Texas) High School is 5-11 and 190-pounds with 4.4 speed. A very gifted outside runner with great speed and quickness. Gray is coming off an amazing junior season with 222 carries for 1,510 yards (6.8 per carry) and 31 touchdowns on the ground. Add in 38 receptions for 438 yards with two touchdowns and another four scores off punt returns, bringing the touchdown total to 37 on the year. Gray has tremendous lower body strength with a 585-pound squat and 34-inch vertical. He might hit the hole harder and faster than anyone else in the country. Gray checks in at No. 114 in the country and the 13th best running back according to Scout.com.

  • Ryan Williams, like Franklin Green, is on the fast track rising up the Florida running back board and it is well deserved. A four-star running back from Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson High School, Williams gives new meaning to the word "team player". It has been reported that he will hold off until signing day so the rest of his team can get some more looks a long the way from college coaches around the country. At 5-11 and 205-pounds, Williams rushed for 1,574 yards and 19 touchdowns on just 157 carries. Every eight touches is a touchdown. Florida, Georgia, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Virginia Tech are the teams to look out for. I am waiting on confirmation from him for Friday Night Lights.

  • Two backs that many Gator fans wanted to see in this year's class were Josh Haden and Eric Smith. Haden, the younger brother of Joe Haden surprised many when he chose to end speculation and pull the trigger to Boston College. Eric Smith had been receiving a ton of attention from the Florida staff early on but has since cooled. Smith now favors Clemson and Auburn.

    My Dark Horse: Daphne (Ala.) running back Reggie Hunt is 5-10 and 185-pounds with 4.4 speed. He currently holds offers from Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, West Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Purdue. Hunt is being recruited by Urban Meyer and Charlie Strong. He stays in touch with Meyer on a regular basis. Hunt has told me several times that he could see himself playing for the Gators. The staff has made it clear to Hunt that the only reason they use Harvin in the backfield is because they do not have a running back that can take it to the house and Hunt can be that guy in this offense. Daphne High School runs the same style of offense the Gators do, and it would be an easy transition for him. Last year, with limited carries he had 72 rushes for 709 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is extremely strong with a 270-pound bench press and 405-squat.

    Keep an Eye On: One of the most exciting players with the ball in his hands is Prichard (Ala.) C.F. Vigor High School star Burton Scott. Scott, at 5-11 and 190-pounds with 4.45 speed filled the stat sheet on a regular basis last year.

  • 1,070 Rushing Yards
  • 11 Rushing Touchdowns
  • 1,059 Passing Yards
  • 8 Touchdown Passes
  • 12 Catches for 353 Yards and One Touchdown

    Scott has offers from a ton of schools but is looking at a select few. Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Southern Cal are the ones he is keeping an eye on. Urban Meyer and Charlie Strong are both recruiting Scott.

    "They both told me that they want me to come down and do the same things that No. 8 did, Percy Harvin. They spread the ball out and get it to the playmakers. That's what the spread option offense does and it's the same kind that we run now in high school."

    I believe there is a very good chance that Scott could end up in this class as a wide receiver and depending on how things go at the running back position; the Gators might just have themselves another Percy Harvin.

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