Florida football can breathe a huge sigh of relief as Lorenzo Lingard gains eligibility.
In January, Lorenzo Lingard announced that he would be transferring to Florida football for the 2020 season.
However, there was quite the speculation regarding whether or not the former Miami running back would be cleared to play. After all, Florida waited 7 long months for Brenton Cox’s eligibility to come to fruition, resulting in the linebacker missing the entire 2019 season- many Florida fans feared much of the same for Lingard.
But after waiting 5 months, the redshirt sophomore finally announced the NCAA’s decision to grant him eligibility… and the news couldn’t have arrived on a better day.
Lingard will be expected to make an immediate impact as Dan Mullen‘s No. 2 running back behind Dameon Pierce. This should certainly help strengthen a unit that remains somewhat of a mystery.
In 2019, Gator running backs carried the ball on a total of 235 attempts. Out of those attempts, only 40% were from players set to return in 2020- Dameon Pierce accounting for a majority of them.
Although Lingard won’t provide much experience, as he only played in 3 games as a Hurricane, he should equip the Gators with talent and depth on a unit that severely needs both.
It’s no secret that the Gators struggled running the football in 2019- to the point of finishing next to last in the entire SEC.
Now, many of their issues stemmed from an offensive line squad that struggled to open lanes for the tailbacks. Good news for Florida, only 1 offensive line starter was lost in 2019. So there should be improvements made there.
If the Gators can manage to clean up the lackluster run game, I think that we can expect for Mullen’s offense to truly take off- they just need all pieces to come together.
Furthermore, there’s quite the potential at the tailback position in 2020. Let’s take a look at the probable depth chart.
Florida football (projected) 3-deep tailback depth chart
There’s very little doubt that Pierce will be the lead-man here. Not only does he provide a powerful, compact frame, but he also gives Mullen quite the experience after finding intermittent carries in 2018 and 2019.
Though he’s far from the fastest player on the field, Pierce has the uncanny ability to torch defenses when least expected. In the earlier stages of his career, Pierce normally accumulated carries toward the end of games- when the defenses were gassed.
It will be interesting to see if he still has a knack for home run carries of +50 yards while playing the role of an every-down back.
Nonetheless, Pierce also found success near the goal line. Thanks to his 5’10, 210 pound figure, he’s been able to work his way into the end zone as a power back.
It’s likely that we’ll see Mullen utilize Kyle Trask’s arm as much as possible. Fortunately, Pierce has shown to excel at pass blocking- he’ll need to continue if he wants to serve a greater purpose in Florida’s offense.
After dealing with an injury at Miami and only playing in 3 games, there’s very little we know about Lorenzo Lingard. While he showed quite the promise in his debut game against Savannah State, the glaring factor is… Savannah State.
However, 247Sports doesn’t hand out 5-stars to just anyone. It’s safe to assume that Lingard certainly has enough talent to deal with opposing SEC defenses.
Despite his 6’0, 200 pound frame, Lingard moves just as well as most scat-backs at the college level. We should see a healthy mix of power and speed both inside and outside the tackles.
Last season, Dan Mullen didn’t find much use in a 2-man system at running back, as Lamical Perrine enjoyed majority of carries and snaps, but that could certainly change in 2020 if Lingard proves to be effective early on.
I’m definitely intrigued by the thought of a Pierce-Lingard, 1-2 punch system in Gainesville.
Very few people expected Malik Davis’s career to turn out the way it has. Under Jim McElwain, Davis proved to be one of Florida’s limited offensive threats before suffering an ACL injury, ending his freshman campaign. Just a year later, Davis suffered yet another injury costing him his 2nd season- this time, his foot.
In 2019, Davis’s presence was unfelt as he struggled to set himself apart from other backs on the team and lacked in overall production. Since his freshman year, it seems that Davis is just a mere ghost of his old self. You begin to wonder if it is mental or physical.
Now, in his 4th year at Florida, Davis must again prove his worth just to find meaningful reps in 2020; however, it’s likely that Mullen will only use the underwhelming back as a junk-time contributor.