It’s always a sad day when one of your favorite players in an NFL Draft class gets hurt. In my case, Utah running back Zack Moss is that guy, and the worst part is that he hurt his knee getting into bed. I don’t know where we put that on the scouting report, but it can’t be good, right?
Regardless, queue the “How I Met Your Mother” theme song and opening scene in MacLaren’s Pub. Needless to say, you’re the hot girl at the bar and I’m Barney Stinson, and I ask you one simple question. Have you met Lamical Perine? Maybe you haven’t met him, but have you at least heard about him? Probably not, but that’s all going to change. With Zack Moss out for the season due to a knee injury and the Michigan State Spartans electing to redshirt senior running back LJ Scott, the running back class took somewhat of a hit over the weekend. Keep in mind that Bryce Love has been battling injuries all year and Oklahoma lost Rodney Anderson for the season. What’s the philosophy? Next man up? That man should be Lamical Perine of the Florida Gators.
More often than not, the Gators tend to use both Perine and Jordan Scarlett. Fortunately, they’re starting to figure out that Perine is the better running back of the two. Since the Gators played Mississippi State at the end of September, Perine has had 10 or more carries in six straight games. With all of this extra work, he’s compiled 472 rushing yards and an average of 78.67 rushing yards per game during that span. On the season, Perine has 109 carries for 587 yards and five touchdowns.
Coming out of Theodore High School in Mobile, Alabama, Perine was a three-star recruit. He had offers from Colorado State, Alabama, Louisiana Tech and Florida. Despite the hodge-podge of teams, Perine chose the right school.
Since arriving in Gainesville, the 5’11 and 227-pound running back has been stuck in a timeshare. He’s never gotten the opportunity to be the featured guy. Maybe that’s a good thing as it gives him fresh legs, but as the season has gone on, it’s become clear he’s got the juice.
In 2016, he played in all 13 games but split time with Jordan Scarlett, the lead back. During the 2017 season, he became the starting running back and played in 11 games, of which he started in eight. During his career, he’s played in 34 games with 336 carries for 1,570 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Some of you might ask if he’s related to Samaje Perine and the answer is yes. He’s also related to Myles Jack of the Jacksonville Jaguars and his father, Terrance, played at Auburn. It’s clear that he comes from a football background, and that should only help when he starts playing on Sundays.
Patience is Key
When evaluating running backs, it’s important to realize how patience is key. Perine displays patience consistently. When approaching the line of scrimmage he lets his blocks develop, which allows him to find an opening and gain additional yardage. It’s not rare for running backs to do this, but a lot of the time running backs have a tendency to dance around the backfield or try to use their speed before any blocks develop.
Whenever a running back has to run anything off tackle or some type of sweep, they have to show patience. It’s pivotal to let your blocks develop in front of you. As we all know, blocking opens the door for anything and everything, especially the endzone. In this case, it’s about moving the sticks and establishing the run.
On the play above, Lamical Perine does a great job letting the play develop in front of him with Florida’s variation of Buck Sweep out of shotgun and 11 personnel (one tight end and one running back). Once receiving the handoff, Perine allows both of his pulling guards to block across the offensive line and set the edge. His vision leads him to the cutback line inside the pulling right guard. He accelerates through the hole and gains positive yardage.
The play above is another example of Perine displaying patience and vision. It appears that Florida is running some type of power out of shotgun with the pulling right guard. Once there’s some uncertainty established in the B-gap, Perine continues to follow his guard to the outside. Once the edge is set, Perine cuts back inside and follows more of his blockers. As you can see, there were at least two LSU defenders put into the dirt, but also, Perine carries a few of them for additional yardage.
Vision, Burst, Low Center of Gravity
There’s a combination of things that make a running back special. Their overall speed is great and all, but if a running back doesn’t display some type of burst, quality vision and the ability to lower his center of gravity while approaching contact, he won’t be very good. Perine’s got three traits that bode well for him, and those are his overall vision, burst, and ability to lower his center of gravity.
On the play above, Florida runs inside zone, and despite the center (#66) being just a step late getting to the linebacker, it doesn’t stop Perine. The center does his job well enough, but Perine shows something that some running backs struggle with: the vision to see an opening that quickly and adequate burst to get through it. On this run, Perine displays both at the same time. It’s a simple form of running, but it’s a style I enjoy watching. He gets through the second level, lowers his center of gravity with defenders around him, and makes himself a bit more difficult to bring down. This run is a good one to keep for the highlight reel.
Operating in Space
We’re all so quick to judge on how “fast” a player is because of what the clock says after 40 yards. As weird as it may sound, there’s a thing called “game-speed”. With Lamical Perine, he won’t win all of the races against his opponents, but he can still operate in space with the ball in his hand. Ultimately, his “game-speed” can translate to the next level.
On the play above, we’ll see an example of Perine working in space. It’s speed option from the Gators, and once the linebacker bites on the quarterback, the ball gets tossed to Perine. With a clear opening, we see great burst from Perine in addition to his ability to bulldoze defenders. It’s clear that Perine can operate in space and if you get in his way, there’s a chance that you end up on the ground.
Before you enter the comments with some type of misunderstanding, understand that the play above isn’t some type of pro comparison. I am not comparing Perine to Ezekiel Elliot. Before you say that the option doesn’t get run in the NFL, reconsider. Sunday night, the Cowboys ran a similar variation of the option as the Gators did against LSU. Teams love to get their best players the ball in space. The Cowboys try to do that with Zeke as much as possible. It’s clear that the Gators have been doing the same with Lamical Perine.
Jump Cut and Red Zone Efficiency
Plenty of teams stall in the red zone, and a lot of the time it’s because of the way they utilize their weapons when the field shortens. For the Gators, they always seem to have success when giving the ball to Perine in the red-zone.
So far this season, Perine has 16 rushing attempts for 58 yards and four touchdowns in this area of the field. Meanwhile, 41 of those rushing yards have come after contact. It’s clear that there’s some power behind Perine, but you can also see that he can make defenders miss in the short areas of the field.
Take the play above. The Gators are on the two and give the ball to Perine. His initial opening (B-gap) gets filled, so he quickly jump-cuts outside. Once he gets into space, he has three defenders in his area. He puts a move on the initial defender and falls forward over the goal-line. Anywhere else on the field, this run might just have you shrug your shoulders, but with this being in the red zone and knowing that he can do this in the short areas of the field, it’s a promising sign.
It’s not always easy to find the “next man up” in a positional group. Thanks to some injuries, a redshirt and some potential names returning to school for their senior season, Lamical Perine has an opening to emerge in this class. He won’t become the top guy and may not even be a top-5 running back selected in the Draft, but he’s a name you need to remember.
He’s starting to emerge from the shadows of Jordan Scarlett. If he declares for the 2019 NFL Draft, I believe he can emerge from behind some more shadows. When you look back at previous drafts, Jordan Howard went in the fifth round in 2016 and David Johnson went in the third round the year before. It’s clear that there’s value at the running back position in every round of the NFL Draft.
Lamical Perine has some upside in a running back class that isn’t as talented as the previous two. He won’t shift his status into the first day, but when he gets drafted, it won’t surprise me to see him compete for snaps and potentially emerge into a starter for an NFL team. With three games left on the regular season schedule for the Gators, Perine will look to turn more heads as he prepares for the 2019 NFL Draft. He’s caught my attention, and it’s only a matter of time until he catches yours, if he hasn’t already.