Feature Photo Credit: Maria Golick
Over the past year, college football has been altered drastically due to COVID-19, especially the recruiting scene.
With face-to-face interactions raising concerns about transmission of the disease, the NCAA implemented a recruiting dead period that has spanned 15 months long. Looking to ensure safety for players and coaches alike, March 13, 2020, marked the official prohibition of coaches from having in-person contact with players in homes and on-campus.
Making it difficult for high school athletes to draw appropriate conclusions on which program suits them best for the continuation of their football careers, the safety measure has received its fair share of scrutiny beyond the initial extension.
Granting an end to the long-demanded end to the dead period in April for June 1, the NCAA has created widespread anticipation for what is slated to be an action-packed summer of football activities.
Leading up to the crucial stretch for both schools and prospects, AllGators releases the Florida Gators 2022 recruiting predictive big board for each position of need, starting at running back with no particular order of ranking.
*Due to the commitment of Nick Evers and the signing of both Carlos Del Rio-Wilson and Jalen Kitna in the 2021 class, the quarterback position has been deemed filled.*
Receiving his offer from Florida in June of 2020, Alston has seen substantial interest from the Gators staff for the longevity of his process. Hailing from Woodward Academy in Atlanta, Alston presents a complete skillset out of the backfield, playing with a combination of power, speed and ball carrier vision.
Garnering attraction for his abilities on a large scale, Alston currently holds a whopping 53 offers and sits as a hot commodity for the top powerhouses in college football.
On multiple occasions, Alston has emphasized Florida's standing as a top school for his talents, giving Greg Knox and the Gators firm ground to stand on when attempting to land the Georgia-based playmaker.
Looking to continue gauging interest from the plethora of schools in contention for his services, Alston will endure a busy remainder of recruitment to make up for the lost time.
While Florida currently holds a firm grasp, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound back looks to test the waters of Gainesville and get a true sense of the Gators interest with an unofficial visit on day one of the open period.
Whiffing on high school running backs the past two years, the addition of Alston would immediately change the trajectory of where the running back room is heading by adding a top tier talent to the mix.
As a result, continuing to push for the star Woodward Academy ball carrier is essential.
Being a consistent name in the Gators search for a future altering ball carrier, Gibbs remains a likely option for Florida going forward.
Showing significant interest for UF to this point in his recruitment, Florida looks to be in the drivers seat when it comes to the Winter Park star.
Playing with top end elusiveness and fled vision, Gibbs — who stands at 6-foot, 190 pounds — is not far removed from tearing his ACL last year.
As a result, Gibbs presents a concern for recovery that could alter Florida’s perception going forward, given his primary attractiveness sits in his ability to change direction. On the other hand, given their lack of success, nitpicking a high potential talent may not be a luxury they can afford to have.
Florida will get a chance to further impress Gibbs on the first weekend of June, along with other big names across other positions on June 4.
Recently releasing his top list of schools, Pettaway — who is labeled as one of the best backs in the 2022 class — included the Gators amongst the ten programs vying for his services.
While Florida was an unexpected winner in the talented prospects cut from 26 teams, the Gators' push to obtain the well-regarded back continues.
Standing at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Pettaway’s game includes desirable doses of explosiveness and consistency. Averaging over 13 yards per touch in his first two seasons in high school, the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy running back has been viewed as a game-changing entity for any power five backfield.
While the legitimacy of Florida’s contention remains in question, there is still room to work for the Gators to pull off a big recruiting victory for an area of need by closing on Pettaway,
But sometimes, all you need is a chance.
IMG has not been kind to the Gators in recent memory, missing out on a plethora of talent that has been produced at the prolific Academy.
Once again, Florida looks to a well of little water in Allen with a desire to flip the switch on landing prospects from the in-state powerhouse.
Playing at 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, Allen presents a college football ready frame and stout center of gravity that aids him against contact. Playing with patience and terrific contact balance, Allen possesses a dual ability to play in tote the rock with high volume and pass protect with the best of the 2022 class.
As of now, Allen — who has been tight lipped with his recruitment thus far — looks to be far fetched for the Gators to land, but that does not necessarily mean they will quit with their efforts to pursue the talented Norfolk (Va.) native.
Greg Knox and crew will have their chance to pitch for Allen on his official visit to Florida on June 11.
Having a well documented liking for the Gators early on in his recruitment process, Felix was nearly deemed a future running back at the University of Florida.
However, following Felix’s untimely ACL tear uncertainty for the Camden County running back has arisen, namely in the form of little noise surrounding his standing with UF.
A one-cut-and-go running back, Felix possesses good speed acceleration into rushing lanes. Although he profiles as a smaller back (5-foot-9, 200 pounds), Felix is difficult to bring down upon first contact, tackle possessing a combination of elusiveness and power.
As a result of his injury and the increased interest of others, Felix may still be in Florida’s crosshairs but viewed in the capacity as a backup option for the possible miss of the other targets from an outsiders perspective.
Finding and acquiring high school talents at the running back position has been a difficult journey for the Florida Gators in recent years.
Missing out on backs in the past two cycles, Nay’Quan Wright sits as the last running back taken directly out of the high schools ranks.
Being able to hide their woes with talent from the transfer portal and an uber-successful passing attack, the offensive play has yet to be affected.
However, with Emory Jones stepping in to take over for Florida’s offense — and given the skillset of those slated to succeed him — running back will become an essential piece to the unit’s success in the near future, as a seismic shift in the run-pass split is inbound.
As a result, targeting elite ball carriers sits paramount alongside offensive line talent for the Gators recruiting efforts.
Starting with one — or possibly two — of the listed above immediately makes a positive impact on the running back room.