The Resurgence of Malik Davis
Malik Davis was a name that Gators fans believed would be etched in school record books three years ago. Then, a promising freshman campaign followed up by two season-ending injuries and a timid return to the field in 2019 left fans wondering if Davis would ever return to form.
He may or may not crack a postseason list this season, and he probably won’t head to the NFL Draft. But, it seems that 2020 is the year Malik Davis is becoming what everyone knew he could have been all along.
Davis was having an elite season by freshman standards in 2017, rushing for 526 yards and receiving 58 for a bad Gators team in just seven games. Davis was one of very few bright spots in an otherwise atrocious Gators offense, taking advantage of his playing time after Florida lost Jordan Scarlett to a suspension. With an average of 6.7 yards per carry, he was more productive than backfield teammate and future NFL player La'Mical Perine. However, the excitement surrounding Davis came crashing down when he tore his ACL in a blowout loss to Georgia in late October.
Davis recovered during the offseason and was declared healthy prior to the start of the 2018 season, but then broke his foot in game three and was lost for the season again. At the running back position, two lower body injuries within a year can really derail a career. A once promising true freshman was now going to spend the better part of two years without playing meaningful football.
In 2019, after another offseason without being able to fully participate in workouts, Davis entered as the third running back on the depth chart behind Perine and sophomore Dameon Pierce. Davis totaled only 40 touches that year, less than what Davis has already racked up in just six games in 2020.
In what can be described as in line with Davis' career luck, his first chance at a fully healthy offseason workout program was impacted by COVID-19. While most players get the chance at three or four spring practices throughout their career, Davis hasn't been a full participant in any during his time at Florida. Still, head coach Dan Mullen said prior to the offseason that Davis was starting to look like he did pre-ACL injury in 2017. Gators fans knew that getting that version of him would be a huge addition to the Gators offense.
So far this season, Davis has been highly efficient, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. In a very crowded backfield with both Pierce and sophomore Nay'Quan Wright getting significant playtime, Davis is second on the team in carries with 33 and second in rushing yards with 137. Even more impressively, Davis is fourth on the team in both receptions and receiving yards, catching 16 passes for 237 yards.
Davis had a dark spot in October when his fumble led to Texas A&M's game-winning field goal, handing Florida its first (and so far, only) loss of the 2020 season. However, much like the rest of Davis' career, he was resilient. His usage in the next game vs Missouri was low, but he responded with the biggest game of his career in Florida's biggest game of the season, totaling 121 yards from scrimmage, including 100 in the air, in the Gators 44-28 win over rival Georgia.
After a tumultuous three years, Davis finally seems to be hitting his stride. While the running back position looks to be deep heading into next season, Davis' utility as both a runner and receiver bode well for his usage moving forward. His perseverance through both injury and being buried on the depth chart can be used as motivation for the rest of his teammates.
Malik Davis is back on the field, healthy and productive. Let's enjoy the ride.
Photo Credit: Jordan Herald/@JordanHerald5/UF Football