It isn't always easy to divvy up snaps for all of the players within a program that deserves it. However, one position that can be used in a variety of ways is the running back position, a position the Florida Gators will lean on much more heading into 2021 with Emory Jones, a dual-threat quarterback, at the helm.
Heading into this season, Florida added one of the best running back prospects in the 2020 recruiting class, Clemson transfer RB Demarkcus Bowman. Bowman is added to an already-loaded backfield consisting of Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, NayQuan Wright and Lorenzo Lingard.
The need at running back wasn't necessarily a concern heading into this year, but to add another explosive playmaker on the field certainly won't hurt. With a loaded backfield, how will the team give Bowman the snaps he needs, though? Gators head coach Dan Mullen says it's simply - put them on the field at the same time.
"We might run some two running back sets, we might have multiple guys on the field," Mullen said at his pre-spring press conference last week.
“Last year we would have been hard-pressed to want to take Kyle Pitts off the field a whole lot, or Kardarius Toney off the field a whole lot. And I mean for us, when you get into 'do we have our best guys on the field?' Are we putting them in positions to be successful?
"If you have depth at running back you can probably play some more running backs, so that's what we're going to continue to evaluate through spring and getting into fall camp."
The Gators have a luxury on their hands. They have several backs that all bring something different to the table.
With Bowman and Lingard, it's their athleticism and ability to take the ball to the end zone with speed on any given down. Pierce is a bruiser, able to churn out tough yards. Davis is a pass-catcher, who can run a wheel route better than anyone on the team (although Bowman may have something to say for that). And Wright is a do-it-all back, someone that can fill in for anyone if need be.
Pierce, a veteran and leader of the running back room, is all for the competition at running back.
"The more the merrier," Pierce said on Monday. "The more people to learn from. It’s a bigger bond between everybody. With me being one of the older guys in the room, it changed my role a lot. I’m wanting to make sure those guys are prepared for everything and comfortable.”
It will be intriguing to see how Florida will utilize the running back position this year. Clearly, it will be featured more heavily than it was last season. The team's pass-heavy offense didn't come as a surprise to Pierce last year, however. As he says, who wouldn't want to throw to the best tight end in the country every play?
"So why not throw it to 84? Then you have a great quarterback in Kyle [Trask] who can find the open spot, he can read one defenses very well and find the spot. So if we’re moving the ball more efficiently throwing it, why run and not be as efficient on offense?"
This year, with Jones and the potential for a read-option at play, the offense will be different, and Pierce believes the two position groups - quarterback and running back - will compliment each other.
"With Emory, you open up the offense more, you have more options, you have more opportunities to make more plays down the field and that's one thing I'm very excited to get back to," Pierce said reflecting on how the 2018 Gators offense was run.
"And with complimenting the run game, it's gonna do nothing but ... they gonna complement each other. You know, the run game, we gonna come off Emory. If they play Emory, he gonna give us the ball. If they play us, he gonna take it. So it's just when the right time to do so."
It will likely be the "right time to do so" plenty of times this season, and Florida is set up to get it rolling, with a loaded backfield.