It hasn’t exactly been the season that Dameon Pierce likely expected. The senior running back has been spectacular when he’s gotten the ball, registering the best rushing grade among Power Five running backs according to Pro Football Focus. He also has the highest forced missed tackle rate among backs with at least 85 carries.
The problem is, the opportunities to showcase that talent have been few and far between. Pierce has only seen double-digit carries once this season when he ran 12 times for 62 yards and a touchdown in the season finale against Florida State. He’s found himself as just one cog in a running back rotation that was often puzzling and didn’t give the ball to the player with the hot hand.
With Pierce heading to the draft, there were questions about whether he would be one of the opt-outs for the Gasparilla Bowl against UCF, but all current indications are that he will play. With that in mind, he was named Florida’s “player to watch” by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Johnson, alongside Big Kat Bryant for UCF, an Auburn transfer who is one of the better defensive linemen in the country.
In the midst of transition, most of Florida’s best players are either in the portal or have opted out. Running back Dameon Pierce is one of the more reliable sources of offense the Gators have left. He’ll be chased down by edge Big Kat Bryant, who followed coach Gus Malzahn to Orlando.
Receiver Jacob Copeland entered the transfer portal, he is not expected to play in this game. Without their best target in the passing game, the Gators are likely to keep it on the ground with Pierce, Malik Davis and quarterback Emory Jones, who has also entered the transfer portal but will play in the Gasparilla Bowl.
But Pierce should see the bulk of the attempts if he’s playing, as it will be his last chance to showcase his skills to scouts before the Senior Bowl in February. Florida certainly made some mistakes in terms of running back usage this year, but it has the chance to at least partially rectify that by allowing Pierce to have a big day in his final game as a Gator.
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