2010 Roster Breakdown: The Backs

With Tim Tebow gone from the Florida offense, it means the Gators will rely a little bit more on a traditional running game. There will be more carries to go around and a higher priority on the use of the fullback in the Florida offense. The running backs and fullbacks at Florida better be prepared, because they will be leaned on heavily to make this version of the Gator offense run.

With a lot of unanswered questions in the passing game with these Florida Gators, the 2010 group of running backs seems to have a lot of answers. Experience is plenty along with a great deal of speed and athleticism.

Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow is gone and that means 10-plus runs and more than 900 rushing yards will be missing from the Gator offense. Senior Emmanuel Moody, juniors Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, sophomore Mike Gillislee, and freshman Mack Brown should provide a stable of runners that won't allow a drop off during games. Each brings a different style to the game and all can be game breakers.

Moody is the elder and runs hard and through tackles when healthy. Being healthy is the issue with him and has been since his arrival at Florida after transferring from the University of Southern California. He is probably the best between the tackles runner, but has limited time on the field to show it mostly due to his injuries. His 6.4 yards per carry average for a guy that is primarily a between the tackles runner is impressive.

Demps is the consummate home run threat having posted an NCAA best 9.99 second 100-meters this past track season. The junior speedster will start the games and his carries should increase. At 190 pounds, he isn't huge, but he plays and runs hard too. Look for him to be utilized more in the passing game as well with Brantley throwing the ball. Demps has an outstanding 7.6 yards per carry average over his first two years. He knows the offense better than the rest giving him more opportunities to show his stuff.

Junior Chris Rainey will be mainly working from the slot receiver position, but he will also run the ball from that position sometimes. Rainey as we all know is crafty with the ball and works better in space, but doesn't hesitate to run between the tackles. He has a career 7.1 yards per carry average.

Sophomore Mike Gillislee was the star of spring. With Demps running track all spring, Rainey moved to receiver, and Moody nursing injuries most of the time, the offense saddled up Gillislee and rode him. Hit after hit he would take the punishment and get back up for the next one and along the way he ran hard, fast and explosive. In mop up duty a year ago Gillislee averaged an astonishing 8.6 yards per carry and really showed his stuff on the big stage at times. Gillislee needs to improve on some of the finer things for his position like pass protection, and he will see his numbers rise on the stat sheet.

Mack Brown shows up on campus with the distinction of being the first running back that Urban Meyer recruited and landed that was the top prospect at his position on the board throughout the recruiting process. The Gators see speed, power, strength, size, and explosiveness in the 5-11, 205-pound Brown. Brown's hamstrings are 100 percent healthy and he dominated as a senior while not healthy. He will see the field as the Gators will always use at least four running backs in every season.

At fullback, we have the one-two punch of junior Steven Wilks and sophomore T.J. Pridemore. The two have been spectators for much of their careers so far, but will start to get more playing time with more of a traditional passing quarterback at the helm.

Wilks drew praise from running back coach Stan Drayton as the next Billy Latsko and that is a reverent term in these parts. Latsko was always one of Meyer's favorites because he just did all the little things well and when called on to perform and maybe catch the ball out of the backfield, he was able to do that as well. Wilks showed a lot of ability this spring doing just that and his hard-nosed playing style lends itself to being a brutal blocker in this offense.

Pridemore is the monster fullback at 246 pounds and is a guy that could play right on the line of scrimmage if need be. He wouldn't be the pass catching threat of Wilks, but again has that nasty attitude they are looking for to slug offensive players.

BREAKOUT PLAYER: I'm going to surprise some and say that this will be Moody's year. Will he be the top runner on the squad? That is to be determined, but Moody offers different abilities on the field than the other guys with his hard running and his 215-pound build. This is his senior year and he has a chance to play through injuries and make a name for himself before he moves on to the next level.


The run game will look much different with a majority of the carries not coming from the quarterback position. The Gators have a perfect group to run from the I and single back formations.

Jeff Demps is known across the country for his speed, but his toughness running the football is often underrated. He is as strong pound-for-pound as any player on the team. It shows with his ability to run through tackles. He could be a better fit for a traditional running game than most people realize.

Emmanuel Moody's performance this year will come down to health, as it always does. If he gets banged up, don't be surprised if Mike Gillislee becomes a household name within the SEC. Mack Brown provides the most complete running back on the team, and he will see meaningful carries this fall.

Steve Wilks and T.J. Pridemore provide solid blocking, but Wilks' ability to catch the ball will likely push him onto the field. The Gators often used play action out of the I-formation, seeing Brantley roll out to drop a pass off to the fullback. It's a play that could see large benefits for Florida this year.
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