With the limited numbers at the position, the group didn’t have a choice other than getting to know each other well.
With Adam Lane dealing with a leg injury early in camp, the position was down to three bodies, and Kelvin Taylor was the only scholarship player at the position. He was joined by walk-ons Darius Masline and Case Harrison, who converted from wide receiver because of the lack of depth.
“It was just us three and me for most of spring ball, and those guys never complained,” Florida running backs coach Tim Skipper said. “They’re tired the whole practice. We’re out there two hours, they’re going for two hours and when we have the pads, they’re getting hit out there, too. Those guys are grinding.”
Taylor is the unquestioned leader of the group. Matt Jones was an early entry to the NFL Draft, leaving the bulk of the carries for Taylor. Jones had 166 carries last season while Taylor had 116. This season, it looks like Lane and Taylor that will split the carries for Florida.
The new staff feels better about that after the way Taylor is practicing this spring. Like all of the players, he’s forced to learn a new scheme, but his physical ability gives Skipper confidence the running back will be able to handle leading the team in carries.
“KT has looked very good,” Skipper said. “He has real good feet, that’s the number one thing that sticks out. The kid is a competitor. There hasn’t been a practice where he hasn’t showed up. He brings his ‘A’ game every day. He lets the defense know about it. He’s one of the more talkative guys out there. He just brings a lot of energy, I enjoy coaching him.
“He’s here, whether we’re meeting in the morning or practicing later in the evening, it doesn’t matter. That kid is going after it. A real student of the game, works real hard and it’s been a joy to coach him.”
The challenges for the running backs in a new offense are no different than the other positions. However, limited numbers and experience at the other spots can have an impact on the running backs. The Gators have just seven healthy scholarship offensive linemen this spring, and that group has been overwhelmed by an experienced, aggressive defense.
Without an experienced quarterback either, the running backs don’t have much help around them trying to figure things out.
Skipper said he has seen consistent improvement from the young offensive line.
“(It’s) just all about gelling,” Skipper said. “When you first start out spring, you got half line going one way and half going the other and the running backs out of sync with them because his footwork’s wrong. As we’re getting to practice 12 here and then we’ll go to 13, you can see that it’s coming together and the guys are more comfortable doing what they need to do. The more days that we’re out there grinding together and being a family, the better we’re going to be. It’s been a joy to see how we’ve been from day one to today.”