The running back room for Florida Football is young, but also full of potential

With Trevor Etienne's departure, this is an opportunity for young talent to emerge.
Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun / USA TODAY

The departure of star running back Trevor Etienne to rival Georgia has left a void that, at first glance, might seem daunting. However, there is a unique opportunity for innovation and growth within the Gators' offensive strategy.

Montrell Johnson Jr. stands as the only seasoned veteran in a room now filled with untested talent. While some might view this as a weakness, it could very well be the catalyst for a more diverse and unpredictable offensive scheme. Johnson's impressive 817 rushing yards in 2023 - second only to Auburn's Jarquez Hunter among returning SEC backs - provides a solid foundation. But it's the potential for his role to expand that intrigues.

The absence of Etienne could push Billy Napier to reimagine Johnson's role. Could we see Johnson featured more prominently in the passing game? His physicality in pass protection is already noted; expanding his role as a receiver out of the backfield could add a new dimension to the Gators' attack.

But perhaps the most compelling storyline lies with the younger backs. Treyaun Webb's limited but efficient performance last season (6.3 yards per carry) hints at untapped potential. The arrival of freshmen Jadan Baugh and KD Daniels adds further intrigue. Baugh's imposing physicality (6'0.75", 237 lbs) contrasts with Daniels' impressive high school credentials (2,737 yards, 29 TDs in his senior year), offering Napier a diverse toolkit to work with.

This situation presents a unique challenge for the coaching staff. How do they balance the need for immediate production with the long-term development of these young talents? The answer might lie in a more committee-based approach, at least early in the season. This could not only distribute the workload but also keep opposing defenses guessing.

Keep in mind during the 2022 season that Napier began the year with a three-back rotation, with Etienne, Johnson, and Nay'Quan Wright all getting carries. Eventually Wright became the odd man out. It wouldn't be shocking to see Napier try something similar this year.

While the loss of a star player like Etienne is never easy, it has inadvertently opened the door for a potential reimagining of the Gators' ground game.