McElwain would put Florida’s running backs up against any

By Adam Silverstein
April 14, 2016
McElwain would put Florida’s running backs up against any
Football

Image Credit: UAA Communications/Tim Casey

How do you replace a 1,000-yard rusher whose 13 touchdowns were the most by a Florida Gators running back since his legendary father 18 years earlier?

You don’t, at least not with one person.

As the Gators look to fill the hole left by the departure of Kelvin Taylor, who dominated work in the backfield during head coach Jim McElwain‘s first season in 2015, the realization has been made that no single player on the roster will be able to eliminate the void on his own.

According to McElwain, that’s not a bad thing.

“We’ve got four backs. You know, I’m not saying we got the best back by any stretch of the imagination – one guy, say, in the SEC – but I will say we have a cumulative group of four guys who can really play,” the coach said Wednesday during a South Florida speaking engagement.

Sophomores Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite will likely lead the charge, but junior transfer Mark Thompson and redshirt senior ex-walk-on Mark Herndon are expected to see plenty of snaps as well this season.

“[Cronkrite and Scarlett] have grown up; in fact, you wouldn’t even recognize really when they were freshman to where they are now,” said McElwain.

Though Scarlett outgained Conkrite 181-157 on the ground last season, Cronkrite was given more carries (44-34), scored two more rushing touchdowns (3-1) and took six receptions for 89 yards and another score.

It is Cronkrite’s versatility and steady improvement that earned him first-team running back duties at the 2016 Orange & Blue Debut.

Thompson looks every bit the typical big SEC back at 6-foot-2, 242 pounds. It’s his tendency to play with his pads too high – plus a potential concern of his fumbles in the spring game – that’s keeping him behind the two younger players at this time.

Herndon has been a favorite of multiple coaching staffs, which is how he moved from walk-on to scholarship player. A stacked depth chart and injuries kept Herndon from seeing more consistent action, though McElwain, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and running backs coach Tim Skipper have all spoken highly of him and mentioned that he’s in the mix to get touches this season.

So while McElwain does not believe the best running back in the SEC is on Florida’s roster, he’s happy to stack the Gators’ four-man unit against any other in the league.

“The guys are not afraid to go run out there on an SEC schedule and play it,” he said.

7 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    I don’t really understand the point of this article. I understand that this is your opinion but Taylor wasn’t really that great overall last year. He might’ve had 2 good games but he barely averaged 4 yards a carry. Both Thompson and Scarlett could’ve done better as they have a lot more overall talent than Taylor does. Taylor is more quick than he is fast. I didn’t even mention Jordan Cronkrite who had a solid first season playing rarely. Besides Thompson’s ball security problems, I expect him to have a better year than any of Taylor’s 3 years at UF. All that really matters is that we have some really talented guys in the the backfield to look forward to in the next few years.

    • There is no opinion in this article.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Taylor was night and day better last year than he was his first two years. He became a great back last year. I agree that he is quicker than he is fast, but that can serve a RB well. He made quick, decisive decisions and cuts last year . . and when he turned and planted, he got upfield quickly. He ran HARD. He finished runs. He was much stronger. And because our O-line was so weak, some of his 2-3 yard gains were great runs in which he dodged defenders, broke tackles, and turned a loss into a gain.

    • Erich McLane says:

      Obviously you don’t understand what it is like to run behind a porous offense line. To achieve what he accomplished, and to be able to change his running style to accommodate the offensive lines deficiencies was quite remarkable.

  2. Robert jr Patten says:

    True Gator for life,

  3. Michael Jones says:

    I think Herndon is the best of the bunch. His story reminds me a little of Gillislee, who should have had a lot more carries a lot earlier in his career. I could see in Gillislee what I now see in Herndon . .and have for awhile.

    Drives me crazy when coaching staffs annually talk about how good a guy looks in Spring and Summer practice and yet come regular season he rarely sees the field. Herndon is one of those guys. Also coaching staffs tend to fall in love with their own recruits and that sometimes keeps a talented guy from getting as much playing time as maybe he deserves.

  4. Mark G. says:

    KT suffered from a thrown together offensive line and rushed for over 1000 yards. If he had the offensive his father ran behind his numbers would have been much larger. As it was his season was remarkable for making positive yardage with ineffective blocking. Mac has done a good job of recruiting offensive linemen and the Gator running backs will have a much better line to run behind. Their total yards and yards per carry should reflect that fact.

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