The Running Backs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).