Looking at last 25 top rushing seasons for Florida football

Florida’s football program earned the reputation of being a quarterback school after Steve Spurrier took the reins in 1990, which followed a decade that produced a plethora of NFL running backs — including Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. While the 90s saw increased use of the air attack by many of the top teams, Spurrier’s Fun and Gun offense still sought a balance between the passing and running games as his squad continued to churn out grinders on the ground.

After the departure of the Head Ball Coach, the Gators underwent some philosophical changes on the sidelines that at best led to a pair of national championships and at worst led to losing seasons. Mixed up in there are some superior rushing campaigns by both running backs and quarterbacks along with some forgettable seasons as well.

Below is a look at the top rushers for Florida football over the past 25 seasons stretching all the way back into the Spurrier era and ending in the new Napier age. Included are their season stats, their career yardage and a short description of their achievement.

1998: Terry Jackson

Andy Lyons /Allsport

Season Yards: 587

Season Carries: 105

Yards per: 5.6

Career Yards: 1,794

This season was not even Jackson’s best as he finished his freshman campaign with 780 yards on 122 carries.

1999: Earnest Graham

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Season Yards: 654

Season Carries: 117

Yards per: 5.6

Career Yards: 3,085

This is the first of three seasons in which Graham led the Gators on the ground, with the next entry sandwiched in between them.

2000: Robert Gillespie

Andy Lyons /Allsport

Season Yards: 678

Season Carries: 125

Yards per: 5.4

Career Yards: 1,854

Gillespie beat out Graham for the most team yardage on the ground in 2000 by just two yards (Graham had four fewer carries).

2001: Earnest Graham

Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

Season Yards: 650

Season Carries: 125

Yards per: 5.2

Career Yards: 3,085

Graham led the team in rushing yards for the second time in his collegiate career, gaining 255 more yards than Gillespie on 21 more carries.

2002: Earnest Graham

Scott Halleran/ALLSPORT

Season Yards: 1,085

Season Carries: 240

Yards per: 4.5

Career Yards: 3,085

Graham finally cracked the thousand-yard mark in his final year in Gainesville carrying the heaviest workload of his career, nearly doubling the output of Ran Carthon, who 563 yards on 105 carries.

2003: Ran Carthon

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Season Yards: 595

Season Carries: 119

Yards per: 5.0

Career Yards: 1,353

After Graham left, Carthon took over the top spot in rushing yardage for the 2003 season but Ciatrick Fason was right on his tail with 583 yards on 84 carries.

2004: Ciatrick Fason

Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 1,267

Season Carries: 222

Yards per: 5.7

Career Yards: 1,877

Fason is the second player on this list to crack the thousand-yard mark and did so carrying a heavy load for the team, as quarterback Skyler Thornton was second on the team in rushing yards with 230 on 55 carries.

2005: Deshawn Wynn

Doug Benc/Getty Images

Season Yards: 621

Season Carries: 130

Yards per: 4.8

Career Yards: 2,077

Wynn was the leader for the Gators on the ground this season by far, leaving Markus Manson behind in second with 365 yards on 81 carries.

2006: Deshawn Wynn

Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports Copyright © 2006 Jason Parkhurst

Season Yards: 699

Season Carries: 143

Yards per: 4.9

Career Yards: 2,077

Wynn led the team for the second-straight season on the ground in 2006 but things were changing in the backfield with the introduction of Tim Tebow, who finished second with 469 yards on 89 carries.

2007: Tim Tebow

Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 895

Season Carries: 210

Yards per: 4.3

Career Yards: 2,947

This is the first of three-straight seasons that Florida’s Heisman-winning quarterback led the team in yardage on the ground, beating out Kestahn Moore who had 580 yards on 104 carries.

2008: Tim Tebow

Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 673

Season Carries: 176

Yards per: 3.8

Career Yards: 2,947

Tebow’s second-lowest output on the ground and worst average yardage came during his junior campaign, in which he edged Chris Rainey — who had 652 yards on just 84 attempts — for the team lead.

2009: Tim Tebow

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 910

Season Carries: 217

Yards per: 4.2

Career Yards: 2,947

Unfazed by his “down” year in 2008, Tebow gained the most yardage during his final season for his last hurrah, beating out Jeff Demps who notched 745 yards on 99 carries.

2010: Jeff Demps

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 551

Season Carries: 92

Yards per: 6.0

Career Yards: 2,470

The wealth was pretty evenly spread around the backfield this season, leading to reduced overall numbers for Demps despite leading the team; six players got more than 50 touches while seven players logged more than 100 yards total rushing.

2011: Chris Rainey

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 861

Season Carries: 171

Yards per: 5.0

Career Yards: 2,464

Rainey got the plurality of touches in 2011 beating out Demps — who managed 569 yards on 98 carries — for the primary player at the position.

2012: Mike Gillislee

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 1,152

Season Carries: 244

Yards per: 4.7

Career Yards: 2,072

Gillislee was a workhorse for the Gators in 2012 in the second-to-last season with a thousand-yard ball carrier, out-running quarterback Jeff Driskel for the team lead in yardage and carries.

2013: Mack Brown

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 543

Season Carries: 148

Yards per: 3.7

Career Yards: 805

Brown’s numbers were nothing to write home about for an underwhelming squad that went 4-8 that year; nonetheless, it was the best season he had with the Gators.

2014: Matt Jones

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 817

Season Carries: 166

Yards per: 4.9

Career Yards: 1,431

Jones’ yardage and carries beat out Kelvin Taylor for the team’s best, but Taylor would take things to the next level the following year.

2015: Kelvin Taylor

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 1,035

Season Carries: 259

Yards per: 4.0

Career Yards: 2,108

Taylor is the last Gator to break the thousand-yard barrier and did so by a narrow margin in 2015, with quarterback Treon Harris second on the team with 244 yards on 95 attempts.

2016: Jordan Scarlett

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 889

Season Carries: 179

Yards per: 5.0

Career Yards: 1,846

Scarlett’s best season came in 2016 when he doubled the output of freshman Lamical Perine to lead the Gators on the ground.

2017: Lamical Perine

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 562

Season Carries: 136

Yards per: 4.1

Career Yards: 2,485

Perine took the baton in 2017 and led the team in yardage, albeit by a narrow margin over Malik Davis’ 526 yards on 79 attempts, and would lead the Gators on the ground for three straight seasons.

2018: Lamical Perine

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 826

Season Carries: 134

Yards per: 6.2

Career Yards: 2,485

Perine’s output this season edged Jordan Scarlett — who had 776 yards on 131 carries — for the team lead and his best statistical season wearing the Orange and Blue.

2019: Lamical Perine

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 676

Season Carries: 132

Yards per: 5.1

Career Yards: 2,485

Perine regressed a little in his final year but still finished things off in style, earning the 2019 Orange Bowl MVP in his final collegiate game.

2020: Dameon Pierce

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Season Yards: 503

Season Carries: 106

Yards per: 4.7

Career Yards: 1,806

Most fans know that Pierce was criminally underused during his time in Gainesville the numbers bear out during the 2020 campaign, in which he beat out Malik Davis who notched 310 yards on 66 carries that year.

2021: Emory Jones

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Season Yards: 759

Season Carries: 143

Yards per: 5.3

Career Yards (at Florida): 1,273

Jones is the second quarterback on this list to lead the team in rushing yards, out-running Pierce — who ran for 574 yards on 100 carries — by a decent margin.

2022: Montrell Johnson

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

Season Yards: 841

Season Carries: 155

Yards per: 5.4

Career Yards (at Florida): 841

Johnson followed head coach Billy Napier from Louisiana to Florida and did not disappoint as he led a three-headed ground attack that was among the best in the nation.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire