GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While new running back Malik Davis has been generating considerable buzz for his performance on the field through his first four games, fellow first-year freshman rusher Adarius Lemons drew attention Saturday for a cryptic tweet about his future with the Gators.
“This my last game,” he tweeted with a lemon emoji prior to the start of Florida’s game with Vanderbilt.
That left fans wondering if he was contemplating transferring out of the program due to a lack of playing time.
Lemons later deleted the tweet and was considerably more upbeat after the win, tweeting that the Gators had a great team win and it was time for him to get back in the playbook and remain patient.
Speaking Wednesday, Florida running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider downplayed Lemons’ initial frustrated tweet and said the rookie running back “is going to be fine.”
“I think as a coach you can’t forget your younger guys, even when they’re not playing. And I always constantly communicate with him, ‘Listen, it ain’t what you haven’t done, it’s a process.’ It’s hard to really get four guys ready,” Seider said. “For this kid, I don’t want to take anything away from what he didn’t get when he was coming to high school. Really his first time he’s really been coached on things. And like I said, this ain’t an offense you can just walk in and play right away. You got to be able to think a little bit and be able to carry it over to the field. I just think the process took him a little bit longer than it did Malik.
“And I told him, I said, ‘That’s the difference between you guys. I can give you the ball and you know what you’re doing. But it’s now what separates you two? Just picking the offense up a little bit quicker.’ So he’s going to be fine.”
Great team win this evening now back in the playbook I go #PatientsisKey
— Adarius Zabri Lemons (@adariuslemons) September 30, 2017
Lemons posted another upbeat tweet on Tuesday saying, ‘Everyday I’m finding a way to better myself’ while attaching the lemon as well as a smiling face with sunglasses emoji.
Seider acknowledged Lemons has been frustrated while playing in three games exclusively on special teams. He has yet to play on offense, despite being the top running back Florida prioritized in its 2017 signing class before adding Davis later in the process.
Both were equally rated as 3-star prospects, according to the 247Sports composite, with Lemons ranked the 25th-best running back nationally in the 2017 class and Davis the 26th-best.
Davis, meanwhile, has emerged as Florida’s best rusher in the wake of junior Jordan Scarlett’s indefinite suspension, rushing for 319 yards and 4 touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Davis ranks fourth nationally in rushing yards among first-year freshmen.
Seider said Lemons’ frustration is not unusual for a player in his situation.
“I mean, it’s all freshmen that have been highly-rated, been patted on the back for a long time, how great you are. But the first time you deal with adversity, you know, now you got to respond,” he said. “It’s Florida. Every kid shouldn’t come here and be playing right away. You know, this year we’re playing a lot of freshmen, so you know, frustration (is) always going to sink in when you see a lot of guys in your class that’s playing early.”
Everyday I'm finding a way to better my self #WickCity
— Adarius Zabri Lemons (@adariuslemons) October 3, 2017
Seider also said he didn’t just have this talk with Lemons after the game Saturday, in light of the earlier tweet. It’s been an ongoing discussion through the fall.
“It’s been every week. I try not to ever leave a stone unturned,” he said. “You know, I go to back to my last 15 years of coaching. I had a kid last year (at West Virginia), Week 11, I had to take his redshirt and he was ready to go play. Because you never know when that opportunity (is) going to knock. You know, his redshirt is gone right now because he’s playing (on special teams). So he’s got to understand, it could be next week, it could be the following week, you still got to bring your bottom guys up so they’re ready to go when that opportunity presents itself.”
While Florida was dealt a preseason setback with Scarlett’s involvement in the Gators’ credit card fraud saga, the Gators have nonetheless emerged with a deep stable of running backs.
Davis rushed for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns Saturday against Vanderbilt, while sophomore Lamical Perine totaled 58 rushing yards and 3 TDs and senior Mark Thompson rushed for 24 yards and caught 5 passes for 39 yards.
“It’s a great deal. We have a long season to play and keeping these guys fresh. It’s SEC or it’s big boy football and they understand that, look, we’ve got three guys who can play right now. That’s a good thing,” Seider said. “And keep bringing Adarius along to get him ready to be the fourth guy.”
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