Anytime someone makes a list, other people are going to get angry. And fans of Florida football were none too pleased with a list that On3 Sports put out a list that ranked the top 10 running back groups in the nation heading into 2023.
The Florida Gators were left on this list, and if there is one group fans feel confident about heading into 2023, its the running backs.
But upon further review and comparing the Florida running backs to the ten teams that did make the list, it might not be the most egregious sin to say the Florida Gators don’t have a top ten group with the running backs.
Florida Football: Run it back
For our baseline metric, we are predominately going to look at yards per carry. Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne had to split time with Nay’Quan Wright last season during the front half of the year, so total yards won’t tell the whole story.
And while Etienne averaged 6.1 yards per carry and Johnson averaged 5.4 yards per carry, five teams on this list can for sure claim a duo that had even better numbers in 2022 that are both returning in 2023.
Five schools can for sure claim to have a better statistical duo than Florida:
- Michigan – Donovan Edwards (7.1 YPC) and Blake Corum (5.9)
- Penn State – Nicholas Singleton (6.8) and Kaytron Allen (5.2)
- Georgia – Kendall Milton (7.0) and Daijun Edwards (5.5)
- Oregon – Mar’Keise Bucky Irving (6.8) and Noah Whittington (5.6)
- Auburn – Brian Battie (6.7) andJarquez Hunter (6.5)
Three schools could be argued as a tie, but certainly not a case where Florida can definitively say it has a better running back room:
- Alabama – Jase MccLellan (5.9 YPC) is back with five stars battling it out to be the second back
- Ohio State – Miyan Williams (6.4) and TreVeyon Henderson (5.2)
- FSU – Trey Benson averaged 6.4 YPC, but Lawrance Toafili will have to step up in place of Treshuan Ward
That leaves Ole Miss and Arkansas as the two remaining schools Florida could bump from this list. The Rebels have Quinshon Judkins, who raked up 1,567 yards last season. But he also did it on 274 carries for a final YPC of 5.7. And On3 said at the top of their article that this list is based on the best rooms, but there really isn’t a backup one can point to and say he’s the guy.
Likewise, Raheim Sanders had 1,443 yards for Arkansas on 222 carries for an impressive 6.5 YPC. But, like Ole Miss, neither of his backups was in the top 100 nationally for YPC in 2022.
For our money, we would argue that Florida has a better running back room than Ole Miss. Judkins is a workhorse, and there is value in that. But again, it took 274 carries to amass the 1,567 yards, and if Ole Miss had a player that could chip in with over five yards per carry to help lighten the load, they would have.
But the fact that, at best, the Gators would bump Ole Miss off this list for what is considered the Gators’ strongest position group speaks to the struggle Florida football might experience this season and speaks to the talent pool that Billy Napier has to rebuild across all position groups.