Florida football: Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne get bulk of carries

Saturday was a frustrating day for the Florida Gators’ offense. Thanks to a couple of three-and-outs and a couple of other factors, the offense for Florida football only had four drives and 18 plays in the first half. We chronicled yesterday one of the key adjustments that Billy Napier made at halftime that got the offense in gear and allowed the Gators to pull away.

There was another decision Napier made, whether intentional or not, that also played a role in jumpstarting the offense. And this decision is the kind of macro-level choice that Napier’s predecessor Dan Mullen could never get right.

 

Florida football: Not enough room for the three of us

Through five games, Florida football running backs Montrell Johnson, Trevor Etienne, and Nay’Quan Wright had roughly the same number of carries. While there are reasons to have a running back rotation, it has become clear that Johnson and Etienne provide far more potential and production than Wright.

This isn’t to say that Wright has been a bad running back for Florida, but he hasn’t been great either. Napier looked like on Saturday that he realized this as well. Despite listing Wright as the starter on Florida’s depth chart, it was Johnson getting the actual start. Wright did get in for the second series and had a carry for one yard and a carry for three yards before Florida stalled out.

Etienne came in for the third series and Johnson took his turn in the rotation for the fourth and then it was halftime.

Coming out of halftime, it would have been Wright’s turn in the rotation had Napier stuck with that. But it was Johnson back out to start the first drive of the half and he promptly ripped off a 41-yard run.

So maybe Napier was just resetting the rotation for the second half and Wright was slated to come out next? Nope, Etienne was the back of choice for the next drive, and he promptly had a beautiful stop-and-go in the hole to evade a Missouri linebacker and rip off a 39-yard run of his own.

Wright did get in for the next drive and had carries of four yards, ten yards, and four yards before Johnson came in to replace him on the drive. Three plays later Johnson ran for another 36 yards and Florida football was in the endzone three plays after that for the game-winning touchdown.

Etienne was the back of choice for the Gators’ final offensive drive and Wright did not touch the ball the rest of the game.

Overall, Johnson finished with eight carries for 86 yards, Etienne had ten carries for 83 yards, and Wright had five carries for 22 yards.

With Florida football only having 46 total plays on offense compared to Missouri’s 72 plays, maybe there was a plan to get Wright more touches and the Gators just didn’t have enough plays to do so. But on Saturday it became clear that despite what the depth chart may say, Napier made Wright his clear third choice in the second half while the game was still on the line.

And it is the correct choice. As it stands already, Napier was alone in the SEC on Saturday in his running back distribution. Other than Georgia, which blew out Auburn to allow more guys to play, no other team in the SEC on Saturday had three separate running backs get at least five carries each.

Johnson and Etienne are the future of Florida’s rushing attack. Let them run and carry this team to victory.

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