Florida Gators have work to do at running back; Kelvin Taylor leads, evaluates freshmen

By Adam Silverstein
August 12, 2015

Updated at 7 p.m.

The departure of Adam Lane will not make a huge dent in the Florida Gators’ offense as it heads toward a potential rebirth under head coach Jim McElwain, but it does create another depth question for Florida as it enters the 2015 season with a couple positions that could use experienced, productive bodies.

While the running back situation does not rival problems at offensive line and linebacker, the Gators are far from “pretty stocked” at the position. In fact, you could say Florida’s shelf is relatively bare, with one brand-name product and a couple of new labels still hoping to earn market share.

The brand name, of course, is junior Kelvin Taylor, a legacy who joined the Gators with plenty of hype but has only flashed to this point.

Take his 2014 season as an example. Taylor picked up 565 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games (two starts), though one-third of those stats came in a single contest when he gained 197 yards and scored twice against Georgia. Two more touchdowns came in Florida’s opener against Eastern Michigan, meaning Taylor crossed the goal line just twice in the other 10 contests.

Of course, it is hard to put the entire onus on Taylor for his production when the Gators’ offense was one of the worst in the nation. Still, expectations are high for the only experienced veteran in the position group, who teammates and coaches are waiting on to have a breakout season.

“I really liked what he did in the spring and obviously there’s going to be opportunities there the way we play running backs,” McElwain said, “[but] I’m not a believer in one guy carrying it 40 times. … I think you have to develop the position.”

Added offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier: “It’s difficult to go through seasons playing one back. We’re going to need contributions from a couple of guys. We have high hopes for Kelvin. He had a good season last year; we want to see him build off that. Looking forward to him having a good camp and having a big, big year for us.”

And that’s where Lane’s departure will leave a hole for Florida. A bowling ball-style runner, Lane was a nice change-of-pace back who proved he could at least be an effective member of a committee.

Taylor said Wednesday that while he will miss his friend, Lane’s exit only means the onus is on him to step up his game to a higher level. “It’s not a difference,” he said. “It’s just going out there every day to practice just focused like every day is a game out there. … My personal opinion, every time I touch the field is like a game to me.”

Instead of Lane, with the Gators still planning to use three running backs in every game, McElwain will have to count on a pair of freshmen in Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite to carry the burden.

“We’ve been happy with their progress,” McElwain said of Scarlett and Cronkrite. “For them, the real test comes in that first scrimmage [on Friday] just to kind of see, because let’s face it, [on] scrimmage day the speed of the game kind of picks up a little bit and not necessarily the coaches sitting out there and spoon-feeding you on every play.”

While Taylor offered praise for both players – calling them “willing to learn,” “very coachable” and “very humble” – he was a bit more effusive in his praise for Cronkrite

“Jordan Cronkrite, that’s my boy right there. That’s my little man. He’s going to be really good,” Taylor said. “He’s ready. I like him a whole lot. He listens. He’s a great young man. He’s going to be a nice one.”

Outside of those three, Florida will look to redshirt senior walk-on Mark Herndon, who drew plenty of praise – as well as a scholarship – from the previous staff and appears to be on McElwain’s good side as well. Of course, while Herndon may be a capable stop-gap as a third or fourth rusher, it’s obvious that Gators have found themselves in a situation where an already-thin unit is getting even lighter.

Though McElwain does not want to rely too heavily on one back, he is aware that he’ll have no choice if the two freshmen do not develop quickly enough. The goal is to put the ball in the hands of a fresh, effective player in the fourth quarter of each game, but it may occasionally get to the point where he needs to settle for the latter and worry less about the former.

Taylor hopes to be that back for McElwain, but if he’s not, he plans to do whatever he can to help Scarlett and Cronkrite be ready for the big stage.

“It’s up to me to encourage my guys and get them to play at the highest level. I’m just going to keep working hard with those guys and encourage those guys to be the best running backs they can be,” he said. “If I see something that they probably could correct, I’m going to coach them up on it and that’s about it.”

Bits and notes

» You could say junior wide receiver Demarcus Robinson is pleased with the new coaching staff and Florida’s offense under McElwain and Nussmeier. “I love it. We have a lot of new throwing plays, a lot of new down-the-field plays. Coach McElwain gets the ball to me, so I’m loving it. … He’s creating offensive plays for me to get the ball and make plays.”

» Junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is working at kick and punt returner in fall camp. McElwain is not concerned about him potentially being injure don special teams; instead, he points out that Hargreaves has so many talents that it would be silly not to utilize more of them. “I think that’s just a highlight of one of his skills,” he said. “Your ability to be an explosive playmaker in whatever way it is, to help the team be successful. I tell them, ‘You’re a starter on special teams first before you’re ever a starter on offense or defense.’”

» Nussmeier on the offense still having a long way to go: “We haven’t arrived in any one area. I’ve never seen leadership or quality of play be determined by someone’s age. It’s what you do when you get out there. We’ll create our own identity with what we put on the field.”

» Nussmeier is excited about the potential of sophomore offensive tackle David Sharpe, who has basically locked down a starting position on the outside. “A big man. David has done a really good job. He’s a very, very athletic guy. He had a great basketball background. I really believe he is starting to really develop into a really good football player. Each and every day he does something a little better than he did the day before. I’m really excited about seeing him progress. Looking forward to him having a big year for us. He’s done a really good job with his work ethic, his dedication in the weight room with Coach [Mike] Kent. We talk a lot about consistency and performance and dedication, that’s what you look at with great players and great teams. That’s what they have.”

Photo Credit: Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press


  1. betamath says:

    Looking forward to the new era of Gators football. This season really snuck up on me. Three more weeks! Go Gators!

  2. Buster says:

    What’s wrong with our LB depth?

    Lots a young highly talented players in that group.
    Have guys like Anzalone and Rolin just not developed? Both were 5 stars iirc

    • Joe says:

      Both had ACL tears if I remember correctly. Jarrad Davis and Morrison both had leg injuries. A lot of tough breaks at that position.

    • mdean305 says:

      Rolin sucks, and he was a 3 star

      • Buster says:

        Every site has him listed as at least a 4 star.

      • 305Gator says:

        Kinda ignorant to say a player “sucks”when we haven’t seen that player on the field due to injury. Why don’t you wait until the guy actually plays to make an informed commentary.

  3. Gatornatetion says:

    How many games did he start last year? Not so fast, UF is going to RIP it UP. Both of the Jordans have goals and are on a mission. scarlett already said he wants to win a Heisman Trophy and he knows what it takes to get there. STA are Nationally ranked every year and play teams all over the NATION, he is BORN TO RUN!!!

  4. Michael Jones says:

    Respectfully disagree about the loss of Adam Lane not making a huge dent. He is a future NFL talent who should have played A LOT more last year but, hey, that’s Will Muschamp. He may have been the best running back on the team.

    • kaput says:

      A future NFL talent? Based on what exactly. His career TOTAL is 181 yards, with his – career best 109 yards coming against East Carolina. The East Carolina game? 16 carries for 109 yards, with a long of 48 yards. So that means, for the mathematically challenge among you, that the rest of the game resulted in 15 carries for 61 yards – hardly impressive.

      He’s an also-ran.

      • Michael Jones says:

        So taking away his longest run he average over 4 yards a carry in a one dimensional offense against a pretty tough ECU defense. How much do you know about football? And it wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t get in the game in Muschamp’s regime. Just one of Will’s many mistakes.

    • Tractorr says:

      He doesn’t have the breakaway speed to make it in the NFL.

      • Joe says:

        That’s what people thought about Emmit Smith.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Now that surprises me because I’ve always thought you know something about football. Guys like Jerome Bettis and Garrison Hearst and lots of other tough hard nosed running backs have had long NFL careers without breakaway speed. Our last 2 back selected in the draft do not have breakaway speed. Not every NFL running back is a blazer. Matter of styles.

        Adam Lane will play in the NFL. May not be a Hall of Famer, but he’ll play. Being in or out of the college doghouse makes little difference to NFL GM’s and coaches. Look at D.J. Humphrey’s mediocre career yet he was a 1st round draft choice.

  5. Michael Jones says:

    McElwain is dead on about Hargreaves returning punts and kickoffs. Has Deion Sanders-like talent, and I know that’s saying a lot. Scary quick and shifty plus straight-away speed.

    • joe blow says:

      That is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever seen. Hargreaves is not even in the same galaxy as Deion Sanders. He is not shifty or have blinding speed like Sanders. He hasn’t even scored one touchdown in his career at Florida, not even one. He doesn’t make big plays either. He’s a steady Eddie, a guy that wins more battles than he loses against receivers, but he’s not a dynamic player. I do recall one opportunity he had to make a gam-changing play. IT was against Vandebilt at Homecoming. He had a gift pick six opportunity that might have changed the game around from a loss to a victory. He instead stepped out of bounds and Florida lost. He’s returned punts before, and there’s a reason that Debose did he job last year, and not Hargreaves. I don’t have a problem with him being a kick returner this year. I think he can be a reliable one that won’t turn the ball over. But to compare him to one of the best to ever play the game is ludicrous. Let me know when he actually scores a touchdown on anything, punt,kickoff, interception, or reception. Those are things that Sanders did, and more than once. Hargreaves is a fine player, but doesn’t he need to at least demonstrate once the qualities you ascribe to him before comparing him to what most folks consider the best corner to ever play the game?

      • OrangeAndBlueVictorious says:

        So the best CB in college football is just “Steady-Eddie” and “not a dynamic player” and “no big plays?”

        Welcome back, Nole Troll…we’ve all missed you so much.

        • joe blow says:

          Hargreaves may be the best corner in college football, but I’ll repeat my assertion that he’s not a dynamic player. The only big play that I can recall him making that may have made a difference between winning and losing is his interception against East Carolina. UF has a losing record with him, and the reason you play is to win, period. He is a reliable corner that doesn’t get beat very often, but I think UF needs him to become a dynamic player this year if they are going to become something other than mediocre. How about scoring a touchdown, for instance? I think he’s slightly overrated because of the lack of big plays. I saw Dalvin Cook break his ankles a couple of times last year, so,no, I don’t think he’s that quick or has blazing speed. He’s Florida’s best player, without a doubt, and a sure fire first round draft choice, but he needs to do much more in terms of leadership and making a game changing play to become a “dynamic” player in my book. I’m sure many will disagree, but isn’t winning games the most important thing?

      • Michael Jones says:

        At least you gave yourself an accurate and honest screen name.

  6. Steve says:

    Going to miss the best running back on our team Adam Lane. No question about it, he was underutilized by Coach Muschamp. When a guy is the leading rusher in the Spring game and also said to be the most difficult to tackle that says something. When interim Coach Durkin actually played him against ECU he “only” became the game’s MVP. Wish him success at Eastern Kentucky.

  7. joe blow says:

    I’m not at all confident with the running backs. The only reason Adam Lane was seen last year was because Kelvin Taylor, figuratively, failed to show up for the bowl game. He carried the ball four or five times for zero yards and then took himself out of the game. He gained nearly 200 yards against Georgia, a game that saw similar success by Matt Jones so you have to wonder if anyone could have had that kind of success that day against a Bulldog defense that had huge holes opened up on it. He then had totals of 55, 47, 29, 37, and 0 in the final five games. That kind of performance doesn’t lend much confidence to the idea that Taylor is going to be anything special this year. He talks a big game, but it’s very rare that his talk is backed up by anything he does on the field. I just think he was overrated coming out of high school and the records he set came only because he played 1A football, and he would never have been as hyped if he played for a large school in Broward or Dade County. My hope is that one of the true freshmen can play as well as the plethora of true freshmen that were great backs last year. I just think Taylor is a lot of hot air and hype, with little substance.

    • G2 says:

      I tend to agree with a lot of what you said here. I do think Lane might have been the best back we had at this moment, can’t understand why they would want to run him off. The kid redshirts, endures being snubbed by previous staff, has one great game (without him we lose that game) now he’s gone??

      We’ll see this year how good KT is, saying all the right things. The OL to me is the biggest question mark, without blocking nobody can run the ball.

      • 305Gator says:

        Don’t let a troll fool you with his half truths, if you read between the lies all Mr Blow is saying is the KT is no good.
        The troll has been saying that all summer and he is wrong.
        I disagree with the premise that Lane was “the best back we had”. There is no evidence for that statement.
        I like Lane and wish he didn’t transfer but I think KT is very good and will be just fine. I also like the 2 Jordans very much. I guess the coaches feel similarly or they would not have “run Lane off the team”. I rather go with the coaches than with Mr Blow troll.

        • joe blow says:

          When has Kelvin Taylor ever been “very good?” To be very good, you have to be consistent. There have been flashes. The Georgia game last year and the first half of the South Carolina game the year before are a couple that come to mind. But, as I demonstrated by his performance in the last five games last year, his record of mediocrity far outweighs the occasional flash of competence. In fact, I predict that if either of the two freshmen are ready to play this year, you’ll see Taylor slowly eased out of being the starting running back. One reason for that is I think McElwain will want to utilize the running backs more in the passing game, and I think Taylor is someone that looks like he doesn’t know how to run routes or catch the ball. Just like you are what your record says you are, the same thing applies to Taylor, and “very good” is not a descrption of his play during his first two years at UF. I guess you have lower standards than most people.

  8. Rob says:

    Joe…just go…
    Good luck Adam! Kelvin should have a big year.

  9. mdean305 says:

    Screw Adam Lane, good riddance, kid was a punk and didn’t wanna compete, this program will survive without Adam Freakin Lane, go crap your pants again loser

    • KB says:

      Taking it way too personal dude.
      Did you have to wash his shorts or something after that bowl game?

      • Michael Jones says:

        lol. . no kidding. I’m glad to see you guys getting on that ignorant comment. Maybe we can have a little class and civility this year when we have differing opinions.

    • senuod says:

      …You’re taking this a bit too personally. He’s a kid. He made a decision based off of more information than any of us have. We’ll be fine and hopefully he will also.

    • 305Gator says:

      There you go again with another ignorant comment. I sense a pattern here
      with what you have to say so far. Not much to offer to our discussion. Maybe there is not much between your ears and that is all you have to offer.
      I wish Lane all the luck in the world and I am sorry it did not work out for him at UF. It would have been much better for us if he were backing up KT.