Taylor stands out

On a day that lacked many positives on offense, freshman running back Kelvin Taylor showed flashes of his ability. He made sharp cuts that forced the defense to miss tackles, and when they did get to him, Taylor showcased his lower body strength to break tackles. The Gators rested Matt Jones on Saturday and Taylor took advantage of the opportunity for increased touches.

"He's a very talented runner," Will Muschamp said after Saturday's practice. "Some positions it's easier than others to contribute as a freshman. That's a natural instinct position. Get the guy the ball, let his natural instincts take over and he can run toward daylight. He can do that. It's the other things we have to brush up on."

The other parts are the easy ones to teach. Running backs can learn pass protection, blocking schemes and the other smaller parts of the offense. What can't be taught are the skills that make Kelvin Taylor the caliber of running back he has proven to be this spring.

He has the vision and cutting ability to help him get on the field during his freshman season, and those are major reasons the Gators wanted Taylor to play his college football in Gainesville.

"Kelvin has a really strong lower body," Muschamp said. "He runs through contact extremely well and has natural instincts in the run game. He has to continue to get the turns and reps, plus the protections and all the things you have to do for us at running back. Extremely pleased with his progress."

He showed all of his traits in The Swamp on Saturday. He made multiple defensive players miss with his sharp cuts, including on a seven-yard touchdown run. One cut threw the Florida defense back to the middle of the field while Taylor was changing directions and heading for the pylon.

The lacking part of Taylor's game comes in the speed category. He has enough to be effective, but there isn't the breakaway speed that some backs, including Taylor's father, can show. When asked about the comparison to his father, Muschamp was quick to slow the talk down.

"Let's let Kelvin be Kelvin and Fred is Fred," Muschamp said. "Kelvin is a really good football player, and we're excited about him. He runs extremely well. His strength right now is his contact speed. He plays fast through contact."

PASSING GAME STRUGGLES: Saturday's open practice wasn't the air assault the Gators were hoping to show off. After Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease both started the spring by saying the passing game had to get better, it looked the same as it did last year when the Gators did throw on Saturday.

The coaches and players all said the right things about quarterback Jeff Driskel's progression from the end of last season, but he held on to the football too long on Saturday and wasn't accurate. Last year, the issue was at wide receiver, where the Gators didn't get open enough. The hope is that it gets better this year, but Muschamp blamed Saturday's performance on the strong defense.

"We cover pretty well on defense," Muschamp said. "That's something we take a lot of pride in, eliminating vertical throws down the field. We'll go back and look at it."

The belief is that freshman Demarcus Robinson could be one of the answers. He injured his ankle during the "third or fourth" practice this spring and was held out of the following eight practices. When he was on the field Saturday, there was still a limp and wide receiver coach Joker Phillips was following him around to make sure he lined up correctly and knew what to do on the play.

Robinson was hobbled but made plays

He's still learning, but the talent is there. During one-on-ones, Robinson went up and over Loucheiz Purifoy to make catch down the field that drew rave reviews.

"Demarcus Robinson is a guy that's going to help us," Muschamp said. "The guy is athletically what we want."

Robinson and Quinton Dunbar are expected to be the ones that lead the group of wide receivers. When the Gators need a big play through the air, Muschamp singled the two of them out as the ones that could get it done.

"I've seen that from Quinton Dunbar and Demarcus Robinson, at times when he was healthy," Muschamp said. "Quinton continues to make plays for us. He's a guy that, in talking to Jaylen, Marcus and Loucheiz -- guys that are pretty good cover corners -- they feel like he runs extremely well and finishes routes.

"We've got to continue to develop the position. It's not where we want it to be, but I know we are improved. I'm looking forward to seeing those guys improve through the summer."

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