Why 2020 Kadarius Toney is the Florida game-breaker who UGA hasn't had to defend in over a decade
It’s the easy comparison to make.
For years, Kadarius Toney has been linked to Percy Harvin for obvious reasons. Both are game-breaking former quarterbacks turned diabolical hybrid weapons in Dan Mullen’s offenses at Florida. Both brought new meaning to the term “skill-player” in Gainesville, and both even switched to the famed No. 1. Every broadcast will likely make that connection, even though Toney himself got so sick of the comparisons in 2018 that he posted on Instagram a picture with he caption that read “NOT PERCY HARVIN.”
For the sake of today’s argument, let’s not make the easy comparison. Let’s instead say something else that should be on the minds of Georgia fans ahead of this Saturday’s showdown in Jacksonville.
Since Harvin left Gainesville after the 2008 season, the Dawgs haven’t had to defend a Florida game-breaker like Toney.
For Georgia fans who haven’t necessarily been paying attention to the Gators yet, that sentence might be met with a bit of an eye roll. After all, Toney has played in 3 Cocktail Parties. He registered a combined 6 touches for 25 yards in those games, all of which were Florida losses in which Georgia didn’t allow more than 17 points.
But if you’re a Georgia fan thinking Toney is just another overhyped Gators skill-player, well, that’s simply not true for a variety of reasons. The 2020 version of Toney is a different kind of special. He cuts on a dime, he gets schemed looks in space, he shakes off defenders like rag dolls, he has a quarterback who gives him room to run and perhaps most important, he’s healthy.
On the year, Toney has 380 scrimmage yards and 7 touchdowns on just 30 touches in 4 games. Toney had 3 of those touchdowns (2 receiving and 1 rushing) Saturday night against Mizzou, 2 of which were SportsCenter Top 10-worthy:
🚨🐊 Tony! Toni! Toné! Toney!
Kadarius Toney with his third TD of the game, twisting and turning for the end zone. #Gators
How, Sway?! pic.twitter.com/mHsgYAGNGg
— OnlyGators.com 🐊 Florida Gators news (@onlygators) November 1, 2020
Kadarius Toney. Mercy. pic.twitter.com/bFwKSqH3rC
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) November 1, 2020
In case you were wondering, the dude who Toney shook off him was Mizzou preseason All-American linebacker Nick Bolton, who is arguably the most sure-handed tackler in the SEC.
That in itself should have quieted the crowd who claimed that Toney’s catch and run through 5 (!) South Carolina defenders was just a product of “bad tackling.”
It’s been 2 days and I still can’t believe that Kadarius Toney ran through 5 dudes.pic.twitter.com/AIY3MrzBYF
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) October 5, 2020
Again, imagine watching that and not being blown away by Toney. If there’s a “most electric player in college football” list right now, Toney is on top of it. He’s everything Gators fans could’ve hope for the last 3 years when they posted regularly about his lack of touches.
Speaking of those touches, Toney has 30 scrimmage touches. That’s a good benchmark for the “why he’s a different sort of game-breaker than Florida has had since Harvin” argument.
I went back and cross-referenced every Florida wide receiver/running back who had either an All-SEC season, 1,000 scrimmage yards in a season or 1 touchdown per 8 scrimmage touches or less in a season since Harvin left (minimum of 30 touches). Here’s the entire list of Florida players who fell into that category (in parenthesis is when they accomplished one of those 3 things):
- Riley Cooper (2009)
- Chris Rainey (2011)
- Mike Gillislee (2012)
- Solomon Patton (2013)
- Demarcus Robinson (2014)
- Kelvin Taylor (2015)
- Van Jefferson (2018)
- Josh Hammond (2018)
- Freddie Swain (2019)
I looked at that list and thought a few key Florida skill-players from the post-Harvin era were missing. If we’re going to have a full breakdown of that topic, names like Jeff Demps, Trey Burton, Antonio Callaway and La’Mical Perine have to be included.
What I was most interested in was the “scrimmage touches per touchdown” category. Sometimes that number can be a bit inflated based on a player’s role. Obviously if a fullback used exclusively in goal-line sets is more likely to have a lower “scrimmage touches per touchdown” number than a featured back who gets mostly non-red zone touches. Or there are cases like 2006 Tim Tebow, who was essentially the Florida version of that when he had 9.4 scrimmage touches per score as a mostly red-zone quarterback that season.
Here’s what that best individual season number was for those aforementioned elite Florida receivers/running backs of the last decade. Remember, the lower the number, the better:
That sound you just heard was Florida fans shouting “SEE, I TOLD YOU TONEY NEEDED MORE TOUCHES!”
Again, it’s a small sample size. Toney is only averaging 7.5 touches per game. He’s likely not going to increase that number very much, though he is tied with Kyle Pitts for the team lead with 22 catches.
(Pitts, in case you were wondering, is averaging a TD once every 3.1 scrimmage touches. He technically doesn’t qualify for this list because he doesn’t have 30 touches yet. And in case you were also wondering even though we aren’t making that comparison, Harvin’s best number was a ridiculous 6.5 touches per touchdown in 2008.)
Even if Toney only gets 1 touchdown in his next 30 touches, which seems extremely unlikely at the rate he’s going, that would still put his 2020 total at 1 score every 7.5 touches. More likely is that Toney bests that mark, and with all due respect to guys like Cooper, Jefferson, Swain and Hammond, there’s no debate as to who’s the bigger threat to reach pay dirt on any given play. Toney has at least 1 play of 30-plus yards in every game this year, and as we’ve seen, those yards aren’t often of the ho-hum variety.
Those long touchdowns — a Harvin speciality — have been few and far between for Florida against Georgia. This is the list of every offensive Gator touchdown of 30-plus yards against Georgia from 2009-19:
- 2010 — Trey Burton, 51-yard TD rush
- 2011 — Jordan Reed, 31-yard TD catch
- 2014 — Matt Jones, 44-yard TD run
- 2014 — Kelvin Taylor, 65-yard TD run
- 2015 — Antonio Callaway, 66-yard TD catch
- 2018 — Freddie Swain, 36-yard TD catch
Just 6 offensive touchdowns of 30-plus yards vs. Georgia in an 11-year stretch is telling, as is the 1 offensive score of 30-plus yards in the last 4 games against the Dawgs during the Kirby Smart era. That explains why when you take out defensive and special teams touchdowns, the Gator offense averaged just 21.3 points per Cocktail Party in the last 11 matchups.
In Harvin’s final Cocktail Party in 2008, he had a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown in a 49-10 beatdown of Georgia. Since then, Florida hasn’t come that close to flirting with, as Steve Spurrier would say, “half a hundred.” Shoot, the Gators haven’t even hit “quarter a hundred” in 5 years.
Florida also hasn’t had a player who could do Harvin-like things the way that Toney is in 2020. You could also make the case that the Gators haven’t seen a Georgia defense who could do the things it’s been doing in 2020. The No. 1 scoring defense in 2019 allowed an average of 14.8 points in its first 5 games of 2020 (that’s after taking out non-offensive scores allowed).
Who knows if that’ll continue on Saturday with the Dawgs suddenly dealing with a myriad of injuries. Who knows if Smart will earn another feather in his cap for a brilliant game plan to contain Toney en route to another Georgia victory in Jacksonville.
What do we know?
It’s been a hot minute since Georgia has had to defend a Florida player on Toney’s 2020 level.