Drayton, RBs Loaded with Speed

Stan Drayton fell in love with his group of running backs from the moment he walked into the meeting room. He was surrounded with four running backs that he was already familiar with, either from coaching them in his previous tenure at UF or from recruiting them. New coaches often have hurdles in adjusting to their players, but it was different for Drayton. The comfort level was already there.

"I love going in there and standing in front of them because I know they truly love football," Stan Drayton said. "They love the process. It seems like they're starting to know and understand what it takes to be a Florida football player. It's grinding, it's tough. These guys are starting to understand and to love the grind a little bit."

The four running backs have their own specialties, but there is one thing they all do well. They can all run.

Jeff Demps has Olympic speed. Emmanuel Moody shows surprising speed for someone billed as a bruising running back. Mike Gillislee could be the most well rounded running back on the team. Mack Brown also has track speed, something the Gators seem to have plenty of these days.

"Four guys that can flat out fly," Drayton said. "They all can flat out run. They can accelerate. They can cut full speed. I'm talking four guys not including Chris Rainey, so you add him into that, there's your fifth."

The speed starts with Demps. This is the season he looks to be featured more as a complete running back. He is built well enough to run between the tackles, even though his speed has mostly been used to get to the outside in his career.

With John Brantley playing quarterback, the pro-style offense will feature more use of the running backs.

"He's not far off of 9.96," Drayton said. "He's still in good shape. He's very explosive right now. We had a little one-on-one tackling drill, and he's making people miss, so he's starting to get that lateral movement. I'm really excited about Demps."

Moody could be the back that gets the ball on third down and short situations. Tim Tebow moving to the NFL means the Gators now must find a go-to running back that they trust in those situations.

Gillislee could also be in the mix for those carries. He tore through defenses late in blowout games last season. In the spring, an injury to Moody and Demps running track left him as the only scholarship running back. He saw plenty of action and seemed to make the next step.

"It's not a question of ability. It's a question of consistency and knowing our system. We run a very complicated system here. If you don't know what you're doing, you're going to struggle here. It's not a knock on talent or mindset. Some of these backs have just got to get in their playbooks and study their stuff. When they get on the field, be able to execute it. When you've got young backs, that's the one thing that will slow them down, and it has slowed him down in the past. He's got to earn the trust of this football by knowing his assignments on the football field."

Brown would play as a freshman for most schools, but the depth in Gainesville will allow him to learn the system before seeing the field. A hamstring injury forced him to miss time throughout his high school career, but it hasn't given him trouble in camp.

"Mack Brown is showing flashes of being a very talented back," Drayton said. "He's got some natural running skills. He's got a long way to go in regards to learning our system. You're going to see him probably playing slow early on, but you'll see flashes of great ability. He's a big, strong kid, and we're hoping he can pick up on the system as fast as he possibly can and maybe provide some depth at the position this year."

The depth will benefit the Gators as the season comes to a close. Instead of riding one or two running backs over the course of the year, Florida has the luxury of trusting four running backs equally if Brown can prove himself.

When taking Rainey and Andre Debose into account as hybrid player between running back and wide receiver, the position group's potential is even scarier.

"To be able to take a kid out and not lose the speed of the game, it's a huge advantage for any team," Drayton said. "We're just going to see how durable they are. We've got unbelievable depth if we come out of camp clean. We have the ability to put three or four guys on the football field who can be extremely explosive for our offense."

Steve Wilks and T.J. Pridemore will give the Gators two quality running backs. With the likelihood of the offense starting from under center more often, trustworthy fullbacks can give the running game an extra boost. Wilks is likely to be the starter this fall, but the players will continue to compete for the job in camp.

"We've always had a fullback that played an integral role to our offense," Drayton said. "All of those Tebow runs in the past were led with a fullback. Those guys are critical and extremely important to our offense. They're working their butts off right now. We've got to make sure they get through camp healthy, but they play an unbelievable part to this offense."

Drayton knows the Florida offense will look different this season, but he knows it could be for the best. Brantley under center and the emergence of new playmakers allows the offense to become more versatile.

"Johnny Brantley is not Tim Tebow," Drayton said. "No disrespect, that's not saying it negatively. He just brings something new and interesting to our offense. What you're going to see is a potential for our offense to be more versatile than it ever has. That's a positive. Johnny can flat out get under center and get rid of the football. You'll see a little more versatility to our run game, play action game and our pass game. We're going to get up into a lot more personnel groups than we ever have."
Follow Cody Jones on

Fightin Gators Top Stories