Backs Looking to Succeed as a Unit

The Florida Gators may want that go-to-guy at running back in the future, but for now it is the success of the unit they are looking for. The Gators reeled off 369 yards rushing against Charleston Southern Saturday and 292 yards of it came from four running backs. None crossed the 100 yard barrier, while three of them had at least 76 yards. That should be a common theme as the season moves along.

After talking to Jeff Demps, Emmanuel Moody, and Chris Rainey after the game, all three are focused on the success of their group and helping the team win games. According to running back coach Kenny Carter, it is that mind set is actually making them all better.

"We really have put our focus on continuing to achieve as a unit," Carter said. "That is the primary concern for our unit. We aren't interested in what one individual does. It doesn't matter how many carries we get. What matters is…are we productive? That is why they are taking that approach."

The Gators reached the 292 yards on only 21 carries Saturday. That is something that is likely to balloon big time as the season goes by.

"I think they will all get more carries," Carter said. "Sometimes, it matters what is going on in the game and what they need to do. They all have shown in the first game that they are taking what they get in preseason into the season."

Just don't look for one of the back to get a majority of all the carries. Carter and this group of backs aren't into the "getting lathered up" response you hear from guys that say they need carries to get going. When you are in the game, you need to be productive, and these guys know that.

"People get into that thing that a back has to warm up," Carter said. "That isn't our mindset. Our mindset is competitive excellence...when you have an opportunity to make a play, you make a play. You don't know how many carries you are going to get. When you go in you do your thing. That's what they do with each other. They know if they get three carries, they get three carries, if they get five they get five, if they get one, they get one. Rainey had one carry for 76 yards...that's competitive excellence. He had his opportunity and made the best of it. We had two other guys that had more carries and only had 80 something it's what you do with it."

Rainey certainly was impressive on his one carry. He was quick to give credit elsewhere and also not really into worrying about getting the ball more.

"The offensive line did great today, so I want to give all the credit to them," Raney said following the game. "I am just doing my job."

Rainey reiterated the work of the offensive line and the receivers that helped block for his long run which was one of many for the Gators on the day.

"They follow you half way down too," Rainey said of the line running with him to the end zone. "The receivers, everybody did their job. That's why the play worked."

Rainey would like a few more touches, it is his competitiveness and that of the group that is helping forge this group into a dynamic big play machine.

"I wish I could have had at least two more carries, but you have to be a team player around here," he said. "Everything is a competition…race, school, practice. But, we stay together and do all kinds of things together. We are like a big family."

Rainey actually had one long run in progress called back because of a penalty that stopped the play altogether. But his electric 76-yard touchdown was a thing of beauty and helped out by new technology in The Swamp. It took every ounce of Rainey's stamina to get into the end zone.

"He got my foot, but I still jumped in," Rainey said smiling about the defender that grabbed his foot just a moment too late. "I felt him behind me so I looked at the jumbo-tron. That is why I cut. I felt him about to dive at my legs so I cut. That is how I made the end zone….I ran out of gas.

Sophomore Demps finished with 89 yards on five carries and showed off his world class speed running the ball. Demps is the ultimate team player and seems to get just as much joy from himself succeeding as he does another back that he is competing against for carries.

"I had two touchdowns, but I look at is as just helping out the team and come out with a victory," Demps said after the game. … I think I ran pretty well. There is always room for improvement. I also think the rest of the backs ran well."

Demps is another that will be ready when called upon to perform, but he is also the loudest and happiest one on the sideline when one of his unit does something exciting on the field.

"The running backs look at each other as we are all brothers," Demps said. "Some look at it as competition, sometimes we do that. But, we look at it as if someone goes down the next guy steps in and we are going to be a cheerleader on the sideline. We are going to do everything we can to motivate them. I am pretty sure every back in our room feels the same way I do."

With only five carries, Demps had 89 yards on Saturday. It makes you wonder what he could do if he got the ball in his hands 10 times. Like his coach said, it isn't the number of carries you get. It is what you do with it when you get the chance.

"I don't have a problem with it because I know if we go out and do our job we will get our touches," Demps said. "I know any back will try and do everything when can to help us win."

Junior Emmanuel Moody had quite a game himself. He finished with 86 yards on nine carries including one of the more electrifying runs in a long time that included several broken tackles. Carter loved what Moody brought to the game.

"I was really excited for him," Carter said. "He did a good job in pass protection, he did good job running the ball. He had one run that was one of the best runs I had ever seen. We counted today how many people he broke the tackle of and it was eight of them. He is doing some really productive things and hopefully he will continue to do that."

It was a welcome sight from a guy that has spent a lot of his time as a Gator on the mend. Moody has been very impressive at times in his career, but has missed a lot of time with injuries. His teammates know what he can do and loved what they saw Saturday night as well.

"He did a lot of stuff, I was impressed," Rainey said of Moody. "He does a lot of that stuff at practice. I love to see him run. I love to see all the backs run."

Moody was happy to get out there and run hard in front of a crowd. Something he has missed a lot of in the last year and a half.

"The ankle is going good," he said about his most recent ailment. "It just felt good to be out there and play the first game."

You can include Moody among the guys that want his teammates to succeed as much as himself, even though they are each pushing each other to be the starter and making each other better.

"Right now it's competition between running backs," he said. "What I like about it is that there is no envy towards any of the other backs. We just push each other and whichever running back is playing we try and encourage them and learn how to be a cheerleader sometimes."

Moody has a patented spin move that helps him get out of a lot of messes. Combine that move with his hard running style, and he had a solid performance Saturday.

"I don't work on it at all, it is just instincts," Moody said of his style and spin move. "I don't really try and compare my game to the other backs. I just try to encourage them when they make a great play. I try to do everything, make people miss, break tackles, and catch the ball out of the backfield. I just hope there are no holes in my game.

His nine carries came on two possessions and his lack of playing time in two years kind of caught up with him at the end of the second drive.

"I was a little gassed…it had been a while since I got carries back to back, to back," he said. "I thought I was in shape from practice. I got in the game and got five carries in a row and it started getting me, but I didn't tap out...I had to keep going.

Demps, Rainey, and Moody were a big story of the game on Saturday and kept the offense in scoring mode all day. Freshman Mike Gillislee contributed 41 yards on six carries himself. Gillislee is a solid runner and looks to be of the same explosive ilk as the older guys. When he catches up in the play book he should be a serious threat as well.

Knowing this group, he will just be another one they will cheer for when he gets in the game.

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