|Crowded backfield a boon for No. 5 Gators|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 28 August 2008 15:20|
He threatened to play without a tailback two years ago and turned most of the running game over to quarterback Tim Tebow and receiver Percy Harvin last season.
He expects things to be very different this fall.
Meyer has praised the backs at every turn during two-a-days, calling Kestahn Moore, Emmanuel Moody, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps the best group he's had on campus in four years. He'll finally get to see them in action when the fifth-ranked Gators open the season against Hawaii on Saturday.
``We have some dynamic backs,'' Meyer said. ``I'm kind of like a fan in that I can't wait to see these guys play.''
The backs might be relied on like never before, too, because Meyer is hoping to limit Tebow's carries this season and Harvin is still recovering from a nagging heel injury.
``I hope we have enough balls to go around,'' running backs coach Kenny Carter said. ``You can put any combination of guy out there and a lot of special things can happen. You give them the ball and they can go to the house from any place on the field. That's a great thing to have.''
It starts with Moore, the lone senior in the group. His first three years were plagued by inconsistency and fumble problems, but he was the best of the bunch in spring drills and summer workouts. Meyer already has named him the starter and plans to use him at fullback some just to keep him on the field as much as possible.
Moore welcomed the added load, especially after watching Tebow and Harvin get the ball so often in the most critical situations the last two years.
``It hurts you,'' Moore said. ``You being a running back and you have other people coming in and taking the carries. It helped the team, so I can't complain too much.''
Many thought Moody, a former Parade All-American who transferred from Southern California, would step in and take over the starting role.
But he took longer than expected to learn the offense. And even when he showed progress, he followed with a step in the wrong direction. He ran for 111 yards and a touchdown in the spring game, but also fumbled at the 1-yard line and drew strong criticism from Meyer.
``Coach Meyer, he's always getting in your grill to get things right,'' Moody said. ``He's a perfectionist. It really made me jump on the horse, study the playbook more and think about football even more than I was.''
The extra time Moody spent getting the offense down paid off this fall. He looks more comfortable with the ball and has moved up the depth chart.
``It took a while,'' Moody said. ``I'm starting to play like how I play and not really thinking about what the schemes are and what steps I have to take. It comes natural to me know.''
Moody left USC in hopes of becoming a featured back. But that's not likely to happen, especially with Rainey and Demps in the mix.
Rainey has been compared to Harvin since he stepped foot on campus last year, but the 5-foot-9, 185-pound speedster hasn't had quite the same success. Harvin helped the Gators win a national championship as a freshman in 2006, but Rainey committed three errors in two games last season, then injured his shoulder and missed the rest of the season.
Blue game. He ran for 75 yards and a touchdown and had a 65-yard scoring reception.
He may have been even more impressive a few months later, when he raced Demps in a 40-yard dash behind an on-campus dormitory.
Demps had just returned from the U.S. Track and Field Olympic trials, where he missed out on making the U.S. team but still had the fastest 100-meter dash time ever for a high school athlete. Rainey, considered one of the quickest guys on campus, wanted to see if Demps was as good as advertised.
So Rainey challenged him one night.
There weren't any starting blocks, stopwatches or judges. There were just a handful of teammates who eagerly formed a gallery.
Rainey swears he won both races, but Demps believes he took the first one and barely lost the second.
Regardless of the actual outcome, Meyer hopes that speed spills onto the field this fall. If so, Demps, Rainey, Moody and Moore could give Meyer and the Gators nothing but positive things to talk about.