Entering the 2008 season, the Florida Gators had several concerns to address on both offense and defense.
Among these questions, the state of the running game was chief among them.
Would the Gators have an effective running back to complement their high-powered passing attack?
USC transfer Emmanuel Moody was the projected savior of the Florida ground game, but he has seen limited action due to a nagging ankle injury.
However, Moody's absence has paved the way for freshman speedsters Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey to take charge in the Gator ground game.
Demps and Rainey, who run 4.46 and 4.42 forties, respectively, have averaged a combined 10 yards per carry in 2008 and eat up yardage similar to the manner in which Ms. Pacman devours white dots.
The ability of Florida’s freshmen running backs as well as the playmakers they already have in place makes the Gator offense even more lethal than expected back in August.
In addition, Demps and Rainey have impressed as not only great rushers in the open field, but as smart runners who take great advantage of their blocking up front.
Rainey, the star of the Blue and Orange scrimmage, peaks at 5’9” and 185 lbs. and possesses a surprising ability to rip off huge gains while rushing up the middle.
His great cutback ability, combined with exceptional field vision, make Rainey a home run threat both between the tackles and in the open field.
As for Demps, who stands at 5’8” and weighs 176 lbs. when soaking wet, he has proven to be more dangerous when running the option with quarterback Tim Tebow.
Demps’ uncanny knack for lightning-quick acceleration, as well as his ability to find seams in the open field leave many of the SEC’s best defenders grabbing for air once Tebow pitches him the ball.
Despite their phenomenal performances on the football field, some have expressed concern about the durability of Florida’s two leading rushers.
Although Rainey and Demps are considered undersized for the FBS level (formerly Division 1-A) of college football, they have remained mostly healthy up to this point.
As Jedi Master Yoda of the Star Wars series would say, “Size matters not.”
Whether or not the season’s stretch run will take a toll on the health of Florida’s newest playmakers is yet to be discovered.
However, the return of Moody to the regular lineup, as well as the presence of Percy Harvin and Tebow in the backfield should lighten the load for both Demps and Rainey in the running game, allowing for a more diverse attack.
A diverse running game, combined with Florida’s prolific passing attack and the vastly improved Gator defense will make Urban Meyer’s team a force to be reckoned with in both the SEC and BCS championship races for rest of the 2008 season.