Florida Gators running back Dameon Pierce is stronger than me. And you.
He’s quite probably stronger than us put together, actually.
Via Bruce Feldman’s annual list of college football’s athletic marvels — in 2021, I think we can and should do better than calling this the “Freaks List,” unless Jevon Kearse is directly involved, but I digress — we can get a sense of just how strong the Georgia-born bruiser is:
He led the Gators in rushing with 503 yards last season and also caught 17 passes for 156 yards. The 5-10, 215-pound senior might have the strongest lower body of any running back in college football. Pierce squats 705 pounds and vertical jumps 37 inches. He’s clocked a 4.50 40 and has just 6 percent body fat. In addition, he benches 390 pounds.
The word “squat” or a variation thereof appears 64 times in Feldman’s article, and it’s only attached to four recorded numbers better than Pierce’s — belonging to Nebraska center Cameron Jurgens, Southern Illinois guard Ze’Veyon Furcron (actually stronger than his awesome name sounds), Wayne State defensive lineman Josh Taylor, and Washington linebacker Ryan Bowman. If you thought Pierce ran with a force akin to what some of the nation’s best trench denizens generate, you weren’t exactly wrong.
But Pierce isn’t just a straight-ahead runner: Those 17 catches were spread out well, with him never having more than four in a game in 2020. And he’s gone from a boom-or-bust big-play producer to a more consistent option, clocking in for seven 50-yard performances behind an often-woeful offensive line last season after recording six such days over his first two years, usually fueled by one gashing dash in garbage time.
Pierce is set to be Florida’s No. 1 option at running back in 2020, but even he knows that means he’ll be lucky to get something like a third of the carries available — Florida hasn’t had a runner end up with more than 134 carries on the season under Dan Mullen, and Lamical Perine (in 2018 and 2019) and Jordan Scarlett (in 2018) topped 10 carries per game for the year by literally less than a handful of carries in each case. The Mullen scheme of rotating runners by drive and the 2021 Gators’ deep and talented running back corps are likely to generate a repeat of that distribution of carries this fall.
That’s not a bad thing for Pierce’s chances of topping 2,000 career rushing yards — he’s a little over 750 away — or for his role in the offense, given that he, Malik Davis, and Nay’Quan Wright combined for 57 catches a year ago. While a starring role that will not feed him 20 carries a game will limit his numbers to some degree, it’s also far more likely to mean he’s close to fresh late in games, ready to be the bull that closes down the china shop, standing in the spotlight in the role he knows he’s best-suited to play:
Dameon Pierce asked to give a breakdown of the RB room— Nick de la Torre (@delatorre) August 5, 2021
Himself: "I'm the brusier. I'm the big guy"
Malik Davis - he likes to be in the open field. Pas packages.
Nay'Quan Wright - swiss army knife
Lorenzo Lingard & Demarckus Bowman - top-end speed guy, you're not catching them
And it should keep enough tread off his tires to make him a potential NFL Draft selection — something I personally want pretty badly for a four-year player who’s done everything right to be beloved in his career, starting with his all-time tweet to Albert back in 2018 and carrying on through colorful quotes and smiling play to this day.
Keep Your Snout Up Albert , We Got Em’ Next Time pic.twitter.com/CedDpmzNt3— Dameon Pierce (@IRep229) September 9, 2018
This is our last fall of watching Pierce pound defenders in Florida colors. I’m savoring it.
Longtime Alligator Army readers will remember I’ve never started a preseason countdown and finished it — but there’s a first time for everything. (And yes, we’ll be doubling up in the days to come to get back on track.)