The Gators received positive news ahead of their upcoming game against South Carolina as running back Trevor Etienne has been removed from the injury report. In Etienne’s absence last week, fellow running back Montrell Johnson stepped up and delivered an impressive performance.
“We knew early in the week that he (Trevor Etienne) wasn’t going to play. Coach told me that I’m going to get a lot of carries, a lot of playing time, a lot of reps and he just told me to just be mentally ready for it. And I kind of took on that challenge,” said Johnson.
This opportunity allowed Johnson to bounce back from his previous underwhelming performances this season.
“In the past, I’ve been performing under my ability. I think this game I just focused on finishing my runs, focused on just doing what I’ve been doing all last year. I think early in the season I kind of got away from that. I started trying to do too much. I started trying to make every play a touchdown, and that’s where I kind of messed myself up. But I’m back to what I’ve been doing. I think that early in the year I started just trying to do too much. Just trying to make every run a touchdown. That’s where I messed up. I gotta just keep chomping at the bit and just run downhill on the defense. That’s what I did last year and that’s what I got all my success from,” explained Johnson.
Johnson’s performance against Vanderbilt showcased his true potential, as he averaged 7.5 yards per carry and accumulated 135 yards and a touchdown. He showed continued improvement from his previous game against Kentucky, where he averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
“It was very important just to set the mood going into South Carolina week. We know it’s going to be a tough game, a tough crowd there. We know we gotta go into that with another mindset, go to another level every away game. And I think it’s going to come down to just making adjustments, being able to be coachable, being able to learn from mistakes,” said Johnson, emphasizing the importance of the upcoming game.
With Etienne back in the mix, the Gators are determined to improve their rushing attack on the road, as it has been underwhelming so far this season away from home.
“It’s going to be very critical to come out with a win, just to get the rushing started. I think we gotta just lock in on our details. Details to playcalling, details to making changes. I feel like on the road we have trouble with just managing the level of attention to details. I feel like if we get those down pat, we’ll be alright,” Johnson stated, highlighting the team’s focus on attention to detail.
If this week’s practice is any indication, the Gators are poised to secure their second road win under head coach Billy Napier.
“Practice has been probably one of our best week of practices since Tennessee week actually,” expressed Johnson. And I’m just glad the guys took the challenge on from defense to offense. I’m excited to see what we do on Saturday. Just the energy, man. Like we have energy. The defense is out there attacking the ball. The offense is out there and we’re competing. That’s what builds a great team.”
Photo credit: Maura Schaeffer, UAA Communications