The Florida Gators are slated to see a running back from the high school ranks head to campus as part of the 2022 class.
Failing to land a back since 2019 with Nay’Quan Wright, the Gators have recently relied heavily on the transfer portal — adding Demarkcus Bowman and Lorenzo Lingard — to patch the significant holes created by recruiting inefficiencies.
However, the hope for the staff is that those days are behind them, as Greg Knox has seemingly landed his running back of the future.
On July 30, Winter Park (Fla.) running back Terrance Gibbs announced his pledge to the University of Florida over 27 other offers, including LSU, Alabama, Florida State and others.
As a unique prospect that breaks the longstanding barrier for Florida, AllGators analyzes two keystones of Gibbs’ skillset, his injury history and fit into the Florida offense upon his arrival
The staple of Florida’s offense, coordinated by Dan Mullen — during the late 2000s was the plethora of speed the unit lined the field with.
Dominating opponents of power with the ability to stretch the field all 53 1/3 yards — see 2006 National Championship victory over Ohio State — the Gators were an unruly force on college football.
In other words, speed killed.
Now, in an effort to re-establish similar success, speed has been a top-notch quality for the coaching
staff — in all facets of the game — in their recruiting efforts, especially during the 2022 cycle.
As a result, when watching Gibbs, his uncanny ability to turn routine carries into explosive runs with his speed is evident. Showcasing swift footwork and shiftiness out in space, Gibbs operates in a home run hitting fashion that causes opposing defenses to locate him presnap given the fear of him breaking through the first and second levels on any touch.
As a dual-sport athlete who also participates in track and field, Gibbs is able to transition what he gains during his offseason work onto the field in the fall.
Excelling when working off-tackle towards the boundary, the talented back exemplifies impressive acceleration to squeeze past well-angled defenders to push upfield for more yardage.
However, what makes Gibbs special is his speed is complemented by a complete skillset, rather than being the exclusive tool for success in his repertoire.
While Gibbs shows a number of desirable traits out of the backfield, one attribute complements his speed better than any other.
The biggest setback of many quick backs is their inability to make decisions when they hit the next level.
With a tendency to continue trying to utilize their speed to beat people to the edge when the designed hole is not there, inefficient east-west rushing style arise, stunting production in run-heavy or balanced schemes.
However, Gibbs has shown the decisiveness to hit holes with a purpose or make one-cut and go when needed.
As a player that isn’t afraid to power through the big men in the middle when called to, Gibbs is equipped with a compact build that allows him to take big blows and bounce off of them with ease.
Coming into college understanding the importance of willingly churning out short-yardage carries when the chuck gains aren’t there — an improvement that took former Gators wide receiver Kadarius Toney from a dynamic gadget player to an integral part of the Gators game plan — Gibbs has the IQ and talent to be a valuable asset during his time in Gainesville.
Prior to his junior season and first year at Winter Park since transferring from Master's Academy, the talented back would tear his ACL last season, meaning Gibbs was unable to showcase his talents on the field in 2020.
Presenting concern for a number of programs, given the severity of the injury, Gibbs was subject to a plethora of schools stepping off the gas pedal in their recruitment efforts.
With rumors circulating about Florida’s interest for the Winter Park star also waning in the late stages of his open recruitment — due to possible lingering side effect from the injury including nerve damage — the Gators would have their uneasiness outweighed by the potential that Gibbs brings to the table.
Stopping in Gainesville during June, Gibbs detailed the injury as one of the hardest things he’s had to go through in his life, but he continues to push through it with the hopes of returning to his once dynamic form.
As he works to regain strength in time to participate in his senior season, Gibbs is confident that he will make it back in the field in time for Winter Park’s 2021 campaign, but still awaits doctors clearance.
In a situation as serious as Gibbs’, the communication between the program and the medical professionals monitoring his return sits paramount in the decision to add him to the class.
As a result, the Gators must have felt confident in the progress Gibbs has made since his injury just over a year ago.
The identity of Florida running backs sit in the ability to do it all. Since arriving on the scene with Mullen in 2018, position coach Greg Knox has prided his backs on being a versatile group that aids the team to win in any way possible.
Early on, the backs took a bell-cow approach while Mullen shifted the scheme away from the broken system Jim McElwain attempted to operate in 2017.
As a result, 2018 consisted of a dominant rushing attack with Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine carrying the load of offensive production from the backfield.
Since then, a shift towards a pass-heavy scheme behind the superb pocket passer Kyle Trask has resulted in less usage of the running backs in traditional formats. Instead, the unit has shifted into a subsection of the passing game, emphasizing the importance of pass protection and pass-catching skills out of the backfield.
Operating under both extremes, the Gators will now revert back to a balanced attack in 2021 and look to continue forward with that philosophy for the foreseeable future.
In an RB room, equipped with players that can win in a multitude of different ways, Gibbs aligns with that mold upon entry. Presenting his muscular frame, Gibbs is able to rush between the tackles and match the physicality of defenders in the hole.
Simultaneously, Gibbs also excels out in space whether it be in outside zone rushing concepts towards the boundary or working out in the flats as a pass catcher due to his speed and elusiveness.
Complementing those skills with an understanding to close pass-rushing holes and the lower body strength to knock pass rushers (linebackers and defensive ends) off platform with consistency, Gibbs has the intangibles to be an all-around back at the collegiate rank
While he will likely be limited to garbage time snaps in the early portions of his career, Gibbs — barring any setbacks in his knee’s recovery — is aligned to be an every-down back in the Florida offense in due time.
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