A Friday news dump seems poised to bolster the Florida Gators backfield in 2020. Late Friday afternoon, Miami transfer Lorenzo Lingard took to Twitter to announce — by way of a tweet that begins with “Approved to play this year” — that he had received an NCAA waiver allowing him to play for the Gators in 2020.
Approved to play this year best birthday gift ever god is good— Lorenzo Lingard JR (@d1champ99) May 29, 2020
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Lingard had applied for the waiver after transferring from Miami in January, citing the health of his father — who told Lingard in late 2019 that he was on kidney dialysis and had suffered a heart attack — as a reason for transferring closer to Orange City, where his father resides and where the younger Lingard attended University High School.
Florida pursued Lingard as a prep recruit during Jim McElwain’s tenure, but the five-star running back committed to and signed with Miami as the No. 25 prospect and No. 2 running back in the Class of 2018. He showed only flashes of that talent in Coral Gables, gashing Savannah State for 82 rushing yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman before accruing just 54 more rushing yards in his time as a Hurricane, which was also marred by a knee injury and whispers about his commitment.
If Lingard can return to his high school form and dedicate himself as a Gator, however, he could end up as the focal point of Florida’s run game in 2020. While Dameon Pierce is likely Florida’s putative starter as of now, his use to date as a change-up for Lamical Perine (and, previously, Perine and Jordan Scarlett) suggests that Florida may see the bruising Pierce as a situational back. And behind Pierce are returnees Malik Davis, Iverson Clement, and Nay’Quan Wright, each of whom have done little since Dan Mullen’s arrival — Davis, because of a slow recovery from multiple knee injuries, and Clement and Wright, because of an inability to crack the RB rotation early in their careers.
With Perine — who carried the ball 266 times over the last two years — gone to the NFL, carries and touches are certainly up for grabs. Lingard being able to handle at least some of them as of this fall should make Florida’s running back corps deeper and better.