Photo: Demarkcus Bowman; Credit: University of Florida athletic association
The moment he entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal last October, almost everyone had a feeling that Demarkcus Bowman would end up a Florida Gator. Within days, the former Clemson Tiger made his intention to transfer to UF official, and once 2021 spring camp rolled around, Bowman was wearing orange and blue football equipment.
Considered a top-50 running back ever coming out of high school by consensus recruiting rankings, Bowman's transfer to Florida couldn't have come at a better time. Head coach Dan Mullen will call it efficient, but in reality, Florida's rushing attack is worse than it has been in years and certainly has regressed since Mullen's first season in charge back in 2018.
Bowman joins a crowded backfield filled with players that have flashed potential and proven their worth in some capacities, but it lacks a dependable, electric three-down back.
Dameon Pierce, a rising senior, handles short-yardage, power situations well and improved his production as a receiving back this past season, although pass protecting skills are subpar. Malik Davis is inconsistent as a rusher but is an electric pass-catching threat who can move around the formation, even out wide. Nay'Quan Wright is a promising, balanced back, but he lacks ideal getaway speed. Lorenzo Lingard had elite getaway speed as a high school prospect but has tallied just five touches since tearing his ACL at Miami in 2018.
Following a season with those four on the roster, where Florida ranked seventh in the SEC and 43rd in the FBS last year in rushing success rate (0.021 EPA/rush), there's definitely room to improve when it comes to running the football. Particularly when you consider that quarterback Kyle Trask isn't around anymore to carry the offense with his arm.
Bowman isn't as familiar with the Gators' offense as the running backs listed above, but he's been through spring camp with the team and should be somewhat comfortable with the system come fall. He reportedly missed some practices with a minor injury, although Mullen wouldn't comment on it, which could induce a setback but it's impossible to know for sure.
As long as Bowman can confidently take the field with an understanding of the offense come fall, and is healthy, it would be hard for Florida to not put the ball in his hands and see what he's capable of. In high school, Bowman certainly looked the part of an every-down running back with blazing speed, impressive vision, elusiveness and balance, and by contributing as a strong blocker. He wasn't targeted much in the passing game but appears capable from his work on screens and occasional releases up the seam.
Scouting report: What skill-set does Demarkcus Bowman bring to the Gators offense?
Bowman was as productive and athletic as they come for a high school running back prospect, averaging 11 yards per attempt and rushing for 46 touchdowns during his final two years at Lakeland (Fla.). His athleticism on tape is backed by a 4.47-second 40 yard dash, a 10.69-second 100 meter dash, and a 36.3-inch vertical jump.
In need of a spark to get the running game back to Florida's typical standard, the Gators can't afford to let a talent like Bowman sit on the sidelines. So long as he's in good health, expect the Gators to get him onto the field early, often, and in multiple ways in order to feature his abilities.