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Ulonzo Gilliam Scouting Report | UC Davis Running Back | 2023 NFL Draft

Ulonzo Gilliam is a 5-foot-9, 190-pound Running Back prospect from the University of California, Davis.
Ulonzo Gilliam is a 5-foot-9, 190-pound Running Back prospect from the University of California, Davis.

Player Bio

Ulonzo Gilliam is a 5-foot-9, 190-pound Running Back prospect from the University of California, Davis.

Originally from Merced, CA, Gilliam prepped at Merced High School, where he ran for 2,972 yards and 36 touchdowns in three seasons at the varsity level. As a senior, Gilliam posted 181 carries, 1597 rushing yards (8.8 YPC), eight rushing touchdowns, 30 receptions, 363 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns; He led Merced to a 9-4 record and won the Central California Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2016.

Gilliam was a two-star recruit and the 241st-ranked running back prospect in the Class of 2017. Despite Gilliam’s strong performance as a senior, he received only one preferred walk-on offer from the University of California, Berkeley. That was until UC Davis and new Head Coach Dan Hawkins extended a scholarship offer to Gilliam two weeks before National Signing Day. Gilliam signed his letter of intent to continue his academic and football career at UC Davis on February 2, 2017.

Gilliam redshirted his first season at UC Davis to maintain an extra year of eligibility while also serving as an integral member of the Aggies’ offensive scout team. After the season, Gilliam was named the offensive recipient of the George Belenis Award, given to the Aggies’ most outstanding redshirt player.

Gilliam burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman during the 2018 campaign. As the lead running back for the 7th-ranked team in the FCS, Gilliam recorded 186 carries, 976 rushing yards, and 13 rushing touchdowns; He also added 57 receptions, 385 receiving yards, and four receiving touchdowns to his season totals. In his first season of in-game action, Gilliam earned Third Team All-Big Sky honors and Freshman All-American recognition from HERO Sports and Phil Steele.

Coming off the best season of his young career, Gilliam shattered all expectations and established himself as one of the top sophomore running backs in FCS football. Although UC Davis accumulated a 5-7 record, Gilliam collected 243 carries, 1,298 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, 57 receptions, 354 receiving yards, and one receiving touchdown. Gilliam finished the season as the leading rusher in the Big Sky, 9th in the FCS in total rushing yards, and 15th in the FCS in all-purpose yards.

UC Davis had its 2020 season canceled due to the Coronavirus Pandemic but played a five-game season in the Spring of 2021. Gilliam served as an offensive co-captain and recorded 337 total yards and two total touchdowns before suffering a season-ending foot injury in a Week 3 victory over Cal Poly.

Gilliam returned to UC Davis for the 2021 season, serving as an offensive co-captain for the second-straight season and starting all 12 games coming off a season-ending injury. Gilliam amassed 1,179 total yards (901 rushing yards, 278 receiving yards) and seven total touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving) in an 8-4 campaign, which included a first-round appearance in the 2021 FCS Playoffs. Gilliam earned First Team All-Big Sky honors for the first time for his performance on the season.

With one year of eligibility remaining, Gilliam entered his name into the transfer portal on December 1, 2021. After spending five months searching for a new home, Gilliam withdrew his name from the transfer portal and returned to UC Davis by mid-May.

In his sixth season with the Aggies, Gilliam started in all 11 games and accumulated 196 carries, 1,182 rushing yards, and 13 rushing touchdowns, while contributing 50 receptions and 336 receiving yards in the passing game. Gilliam received First Team All-Big Sky honors for the second-straight season and became UC Davis’ all-time leader in rushing yards and all-purpose yards.

Overall, Gilliam recorded 887 carries, 4,617 rushing yards (5.2 YPC), 44 rushing touchdowns, 214 receptions, 1411 receiving yards, and seven receiving touchdowns in six seasons at UC Davis.

Scouting Report

At 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, Ulonzo Gilliam is a balanced, versatile running back prospect with proficient initial quickness, a quick twitch in open space, natural pass-blocking ability, and strong pass-catching production.

Gilliam is a scrappy ball carrier with a running style based on toughness, elusiveness, and collecting yards after contact.

With a powerful lower half and low center of gravity, Gilliam plays bigger than his 190-pound frame would indicate. He openly initiates contact, runs well behind his pads, runs through arm tackles, and punishes incoming tacklers who play with poor leverage and pad level. 

Gilliam is not a strict power back; He has the initial quickness, burst/acceleration, and twitch to make defenders miss behind the line of scrimmage and in the open field. Although Gilliam operates with average play speed for the running back position, he compensates for his speed deficiencies with impressive short-area quickness and balance/body control with the ball in his hands.

Gilliam is not a home run threat who beats defenses with his straight-line speed; He is a hard-nosed, quick, instinctual running back who fights for extra yardage and places a premium on ball security (Gilliam did not relinquish a single fumble during his six-year career at UC Davis).

Gilliam’s toughness carries over to his pass-blocking ability. Despite standing at 5-foot-9 and weighing 190 pounds, Gilliam takes pride in being the last line of defense between his quarterback and potential pass rushers. He boasts active eyes to target incoming blitzes, a wide, firm base to anchor against the blitz, and the pad level to establish a leverage advantage against larger pass rushers.

Gilliam is an underrated pass-catcher who was a highly-productive receiver out of the backfield at UC Davis. In six years with the Aggies, Gilliam racked up 214 receptions and 1411 receiving yards, which makes him the school’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards at the running back position. Gilliam’s pass-catching skill set provides him with valuable scheme versatility and the ability to see the field as a third-down back in passing situations.

Gilliam is a multi-dimensional prospect who displayed the ability to carry a heavy workload as UC Davis’ lead back for the last five seasons. He is a fearless competitor who does the gritty work to give his team the most optimal chance to succeed. 

Gilliam’s lack of speed might slide him down some draft boards, but his versatile skill set is much too valuable to ignore. Whether Gilliam is selected in the backend of the 2023 NFL Draft or gets picked up as an undrafted free agent, he has a great chance to land on an NFL practice squad after final roster cuts in September.

Draft Projection

Mid-7th – Priority Undrafted Free Agent

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