Lamical Perine Is Out to Prove Doubters Wrong, and the Senior Bowl Believes in Him
MOBILE, Ala -- "Mobile boy, love it."
As he ascends from the college level to the pros, former Florida Gators running back Lamical Perine has a list of events on the docket to prepare for the NFL and compete to boost his draft stock.
The first? A trip home to Mobile, Alabama, for the 2020 Senior Bowl. Perine is one of five Gators participating in the annual event, an all-star game featuring the top senior NFL Draft prospects in the nation.
Perine, a Mobile native, is a favorite of Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy, given his local roots and, of course, his skills as a running back.
"It was great to see Lamical end his career like that, Orange Bowl MVP, really cool," Nagy said of Perine in the Senior Bowl's introductory press conference on Monday. "He's a guy I love because I love stories like Lamical's. You know, Alabama didn't really recruit him, Auburn didn't really recruit him. Florida recruited him, their recruiting coordinator at the time, Drew Hughes, he's from Montgomery, so Drew loves finding his diamonds in the rough in Alabama [that] he can pull away from those schools, and he got Lamical signed up."
Perine's recruitment story is no stranger to Gators fans. Long have fans known that Auburn told Perine he was "too slow" on tape during his recruitment, which Perine never forgot.
He was sure to let Auburn know what he thought of that takeaway from his film by rushing for 130 yards and a game-sealing, 88-yard touchdown to beat Auburn in Gainesville just this past October.
"I think that he's one of those guys," Nagy continued, "That, you see a lot of running backs in college, like [Sunday night's NFC Championship game] with [San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem] Mostert, from Purdue, they end up being better pro backs than they were college backs.
"I think Perine can be that guy, just because, they never really had good balance on offense there, at Florida, you know they were really run-heavy, didn't throw it real effectively so when he gets in the next level, without stacked boxes every week, shoot, who knows what he's going to look like."
Nagy mentioned afterward that while Florida transitioned to more of a pass-heavy offense in 2019 under quarterback Kyle Trask, Perine was still affected by stacked boxes previously and was still productive.
Florida rushed the ball on 59.21% of plays in Perine's junior season, when the running back tallied 826 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2019, when the Gators ran on 43.3% of plays, Perine recorded only 676 yards and six touchdowns on just two less rushing attempts than he had in 2018 (134 to 132).
Amidst severe run-blocking issues in 2019, Perine had to become more versatile and start contributing in the passing game. Perine is pleased with his growth in those departments.
"I had, like, 40 receptions this year, that's probably more receptions than I've had my whole career, so just being able to add it to my game, I feel like it helped me out," Perine told GatorMaven on Tuesday during Senior Bowl media day.
"[Pass protection] as well. I knew, once I came back, that I wanted to be more into the pass game... They spread me out wide, and stuff like that. Throwing me the ball out of the backfield, let me be in space, let me make moves in space, and just giving me an opportunity in space."
Given Florida's issues running the ball, the team flipped their offensive script from 2018. This past season, Florida passed the ball on 56.67% of their snaps - compared to running the ball on 59.21% of plays in 2018.
"It was very frustrating for the first four games of the season," Perine spoke of Florida's run game in 2019.
"But after a while, you've just got to adjust to the game. I pretty much knew that we were going to struggle in the run game, so I just decided to tell coach Mullen that I'd do anything for the team to win games, so spreading me out wide, helping me in the pass game, I feel like I contributed to the team very well."
Something that likely helped Perine along the way in 2019 was the fact that he has wide receiver experience. He told the media that he played receiver growing up until transitioning to running back in 10th grade. Yet, when asked what he wanted to prove during the Senior Bowl, it became clear that Perine still feels like an underdog talent.
"Just showcasing all the talents that people know I have, but they doubt sometimes," Perine said of his goals this week. "Stuff they think I don't have, like my catching ability, I just wanna showcase that. Pass [protection], winning my one-on-ones battles, and being competitive. Doing all of the little things."
Perine's 2019 season, while disappointing that he couldn't reach his previous successes in the run game, could have been a blessing in disguise for his NFL future. It allowed him to become more versatile and balanced in order to help the team win, which is something scouts will take into account when scouting him.
"There's a lot of great running backs here, everybody has different traits," Perine stated. "But I feel like I'm balanced, and I can do everything you want me to.".