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Curtis Compton/AJC
Dell McGee is a running backs coach for Georgia.

Running back recruiting demonstrates why there is a gap between Georgia football and Florida

Georgia commit Lovasea Carroll was honest this weekend. He admitted he was considering flipping his commitment to Florida.

But Carroll put an end to any of the rumors, which he acknowledged on Sunday, and reaffirmed his commitment to Georgia.

Related: Lovasea Carroll: Georgia RB commit shuts down all talk of a potential Florida flip

It was another win on the recruiting trail for the Bulldogs at the hands of Dan Mullen and the Gators. Kirby Smart is one of the best recruiters in the country and was always going to make it tough on whoever the head coach at Florida is on the recruiting trail.

But given Mullen isn’t known as a stellar recruiter, those defeats sting a little bit more.

Since Mullen arrived at Florida in December of 2017, the recruiting of Georgia and Florida has come under a strong microscope in this rivalry. And there’s been no position that has shown the disparity between the two schools than the running back position.

Georgia has long had a strong tradition of running backs, dating back prior to Smart’s arrival in December of 2015. And he’s continued that trend since becoming the head coach of the program he once played for.

Since we’re just comparing Mullen and Smart, we’ll look at just the running backs signed since 2018 class, which would exclude the signings of the likes of D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield for Smart.

Over that time, Georgia has signed five running backs along with the having the commitment from Carroll. Florida in that same period has signed just two running backs and does not have a commitment at the position in the 2021 class.

Even with having more bodies at the position, Georgia has also done a better job of signing top prospects at the position than Florida. Georgia has signed four running backs that were among the top-200 players in the country, and Carroll would be a fifth as he’s the No. 115 overall prospect in the country. Florida has zero in that same time.

The Bulldogs landed Zamir White in the 2018 cycle, when he was the No. 1 ranked running back in the country and the No. 9 overall player. That same year saw Georgia pull James Cook out of Florida. He was the No. 41 overall prospect in the country in that cycle.

Damien Prince is the highest-rated running back Florida has signed since Mullen took over. He, who comes from the same high school and hometown that Smart did in Bainbridge, Ga., was rated as the No. 208 overall prospect in the 2018 signing class. If he had picked Georgia, he would’ve been the sixth highest-rated running back signee.

Player Ranking* Year Team
Zamir White No. 9 2018 Georgia
James Cook No. 41 2018 Georgia
Kendall Milton No. 53 2020 Georgia
Lovasea Carroll* No. 115 2021 Georgia
Kenny McIntosh No. 187 2019 Georgia
Damien Prince No. 208 2018 Florida
Nay’Quan Wright No. 261 2019 Florida
Daijun Edwards No. 279 2020 Georgia

*247Sports Composite rankings

**Carroll is a commitment and has not signed

This is where Georgia running backs coach Dell McGee deserves quite a bit of credit. He’s been with Smart since the jump in Athens and is regarded as one of the best assistants on Georgia’s staff. Florida has employed Greg Knox as the running backs coach since Mullen has gotten to Florida.

The 2020 cycle saw Georgia sign two running backs in Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards. Florida did not sign a single one, even after getting seriously involved with Zachary Evans. Evans was at one point signed a letter of intent to Georgia but ended up backing out of that before publicly announcing it. Evans, a 5-star running back and the No. 16 overall player in the 2020 cycle, ended up enrolling at TCU.

The lack of signing a running back in this past class should’ve made it more enticing for Carroll from a playing time perspective. And yet he still ended up spurning the Gators for the Bulldogs.

The Gators have gone about other ways in bringing in talented running backs, as the school brought in transfer Lorenzo Lingard from Miami. He was a 5-star running back in the 2018 cycle and originally signed with the Hurricanes. He did suffer an ACL injury in his time at Miami, but he is expected to be healthy and eligible for the 2020 season for Florida.

The superior running back rankings have had an effect when the two squads have met as well. In the last two contests between the two teams, Georgia running backs have run for 286 yards, while Florida’s have just 172 rushing yards in the last two contests.

Related: What various metrics tell us about the gap between Georgia football and Florida

Teams that have leads tend to rely more on running the ball. And having better running backs, allows teams to salt away the game and extend drives. That’s one of the reasons Georgia has maintained an edge over Florida since Mullen arrived in Gainesville.

Florida is desperately trying to eliminate the gap between the two rivals. But based on the recruiting efforts of running backs, the Gators and Mullen don’t seem to be having all that much success in that regard.

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