Class Breakdown - RBs

In installment two of our Class Breakdown, I review Florida's two signees at this position - <B>Skyler Thornton</B> and <B>Joe Cohen</B>.

The Running Backs

The Scoop

Over the last two recruiting seasons, the Florida Gators have been able to go out and land some super running back prospects.  Last season, Ron Zook and staff signed Ciatrick Fason, Jimtavis Walker and DeShaun Wynn.  Walker and Wynn red-shirted while Fason mainly played on special teams and did see some limited action on offense.  This season, Florida signed one true back in Skyler Thornton and a projected running back/ fullback/ defensive end in Joe Cohen.

Scouting Report 

Joe Cohen (6-2.5, 240, 4.5) of Melbourne (Fla.) Palm Bay High School was widely considered one of the nation's elite "athletes."  At 238 pounds, Cohen ran a blistering 4.47 forty at the Nike Camp (he was named MVP) at Miami last spring.  He also vertical jumped 32.7-inches.  Very rarely can you find a prospect this big that runs and moves that well.  Cohen played running back, fullback, defensive end and linebacker for the state champs.  Cohen is a strong (close to 400 pound bench press) and powerful runner and a pretty good blocker.  He runs a little high and he could get away with that at the high school level.  In college, he needs to run lower, more compact and he needs to round out his blocking skills.  Defensively, he is quick off the edge and runs exceptionally well.  Cohen can run with most backs at his great size.  He could put his hand down and be a defensive end or an outside linebacker.  In Charlie Strong's defensive scheme, Cohen could be a perfect fit.  But he will get every opportunity to play on offense first. 

The Stats 

MVP of the Miami Nike Camp last spring… led team in rushing with 1,126 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior… also led team to the state championship as a senior. 

Scouting Report 

Skyler Thornton (6-0, 201, 4.5) of LaGrange, Ga. was of the state's top running back prospects.  Thornton is a powerful runner that just loves to pound the football between the tackles and is a north-south runner.  He gets stronger as the game goes on and plays bigger than he is. This physical runner spent nine seasons in the LaGrange football program and his last four years on the varsity team.  Thornton has good speed and is somewhat elusive.  He gives great effort on every play.  Thornton has a similar running style to Auburn's Cadillac Williams.  He also has very good hands out of the backfield and has good vision.

Skyler Thornton Video

The Stats 

Rushed for 4,316 yards in his career (on 596 carries) and 59 rushing TDs….Two-time All-State selection…Rushed for 1,591 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior…Rushed for 1,592 yards and 21 TDs as a junior…Averaged 8.0 yards per carry and a touchdown every nine rushing attempts as a junior…Led his team to 3A State Championship as a junior… (Note – Thornton's numbers would have been much greater had he not played on such a talented offensive football team.  He didn't play in many second half's of football games over the past two seasons because LaGrange beat teams pretty badly.)

The Bottom Line

Earnest Graham now moves on to the NFL and it's now Ran Carthon's turn to be the "guy" as the Gator's featured running back.  Having said that, Fason, Wynn and Walker are all just too talented to keep on the sideline.  Fason got some playing time as a true freshman, while Wynn and Walker red-shirted.  Sources have said that this trio was very impressive in practice and on the scout team.  This spring will go along way to the pecking order.  Willie Green could also be a factor at both the running back and fullback position but that depends on his health (his knees). 

How do things look for Thornton and Cohen?  You have to think that Thornton gets red-shirted although you can never have too many running backs.  In regards to Cohen, he wants to play offense and could get his first shot at fullback and will likely see action this season as a true freshman.  Because of his sheer size, speed and athleticism, you would think he could become a special teams player and find his way into the rotation at fullback or running back, depending on situation(s).  He could become a super short yardage or goal line back.  How he picks up the offensive scheme, how quickly he adjusts to blocking and picking up the blitz will all go a long way as too how much playing time he earns this coming year.  If that happens, the jury is still out as to whether he ultimately becomes a running back, fullback or a combination of both.  I am still sold that Cohen is a better defensive prospect but again, he wants to play offense.

Class Breakdown - Quarterbacks

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