Photo: Demarkcus Bowman; Credit: University of Florida athletic association
For a handful of reasons, the Florida Gators offense is expected to look a lot different this year than it did over the past two. With a loaded running back room and a new starting quarterback who is a threat with his legs, the Gators are expected to become more balanced by posing a serious threat on the ground.
Florida is returning four running backs - Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, Nay'Quan Wright, and Lorenzo Lingard - with varying experience in the scheme. However, the spring-time acquisition of former Clemson running back Demarkcus Bowman is a driving force in the idea that UF will reignite the tradition of smashmouth football.
"[Bowman] is a very, very good running back," Florida running backs coach Greg Knox exuded on Wednesday. "Now, we just gotta get him to understand the offense, learn the offense and develop as a young player."
Bowman, as a redshirt freshman, was considered one of the greatest running back prospects of all time as a member of the 2020 signing class. He was highly-coveted by UF and other schools nationally but opted to sign with Clemson - only to take nine carries for the Tigers before eventually transferring to his home-state university.
The Lakeland (Fla.) product would get behind on learning Florida's offense shortly after enrolling, though. Bowman suffered an injury early on in Florida's spring camp, which forced him to absorb the offense only in meetings and from the sidelines instead of taking practice reps.
"He was out basically the entire spring and so now we really get a chance to see him. So now we get a chance to see him in action and he is very explosive," said Knox. "He's still a young player, he's still a freshman, and so he's learning a totally new offense ... it's tough right now, but he's learning a lot."
Watching Bowman's high school tape - and checking his statistics to confirm the eye-popping production that shows up on film, it is clear that Bowman is a natural runner of the football. Combining elite speed, elusiveness and agility make Bowman a dynamic threat in the open field, which gives the Gators' a weapon at running back that they haven't had in a while.
During his high school career, Bowman compiled 5172 yards rushing on 460 attempts (11.2 yards on average), scoring 70 touchdowns. He also added ten receptions for 103 yards and a score through the air.
The issue isn't teaching Bowman how to run the ball or make defenders miss. In that department, Bowman is a "home run hitter," in Knox's words. Instead, Knox wants to see Bowman become a more dependable pass-protector and get a better grasp of Florida's offensive schemes in general.
"Pass protection is one of the biggest things he has to grasp and take hold of as a young player,' Knox shared. "He's trying to be very detailed in meetings, he's taking notes and he's getting better every day. But I'm excited about what we're seeing right now."
With Pierce, Davis, Wright and Lingard vying for reps with an understanding of what Bowman is trying to learn already under their belt, it's tough to imagine the Clemson transfer taking the offense by storm in the near future.
That being said, Bowman offers natural talent that no other running back on the offense can provide. As he gains Knox's confidence with a deeper understanding of schemes and responsibilities, Florida won't want to keep Bowman on the sidelines for long.
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