As No. 8 Florida tries to rediscover its rushing attack without La’Mical Perine (now a rookie with the Jets), the Gators might get a boost from a welcome addition to the roster: the old Malik Davis.
“Malik Davis, to me, looked like the Malik Davis I saw before I got here,” coach Dan Mullen said over the weekend.
That Malik Davis looked a lot like the one that rushed for a Hillsborough County-record 7,025 yards in his career at Jesuit High. As a freshman in 2017, Davis was UF’s second-leading rusher. Despite only appearing in seven games, his 526 yards were the fourth-most ever by a UF true freshman (behind Earnest Graham, Jeff Demps and DeShawn Wynn), and he ran for at least 90 yards five times.
But his career got off track midway through the year when he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Georgia. He said he felt back to normal before his sophomore season until a broken left foot knocked him out in September.
Davis played in 12 games last season but wasn’t the same. He was buried on the depth chart and rushed for only 86 yards on 34 carries.
We don’t yet know which Davis will take the field at Mississippi on Sept. 26: the one who averaged 6.7 yards per rush as a true freshman or the one who has averaged 3.1 yards per carry since. But Mullen sounds optimistic that the old Davis is back.
Early in preseason camp, Mullen praised Davis’ receiving abilities out of the backfield. That’s important, considering Perine was third on the team with 40 catches last year.
Then after last week’s scrimmage, Davis was the first player Mullen highlighted in his recap.
“I haven’t seen that (out of Davis) in a couple years,” Mullen said. “... Boy, he’s really back to where he wants to be.”