Taylor and Mark Herndon -- who has seven career rushing attempts -- are the only running backs on the roster that have ever carried the ball at Florida. After teaming with Matt Jones over the last two seasons but not receiving as many carries, Taylor now heads into fall camp as the unquestioned starter at the position.
It also means he has to help freshmen Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett prepare for the season. Lane’s departure means a freshman will open the season as the second-team running back, and Florida coach Jim McElwain has already made it clear that he doesn’t like to lean exclusively on one running back. They’re going to trust multiple backs this season, meaning the freshmen have to learn quick.
“As a true freshman, you’ve got to just be a grown man to get on the field,” Kelvin Taylor said about what it takes to play as a freshman. “You’ve got to know a lot of stuff. High school, you’re just out there running around. You (don’t have) blitz pick up protections. You don’t have any of that stuff in high school. You’re just going out there making plays, going out with your natural ability.
“In college, you have 100,000 standing on top of you. You (can’t) really think because you’re going to know it or you’re not going to be on the field. There’s no thinking out there on the field. To really get playing time as a freshman, you have to know your details, you have to know your job. You can’t have any mental busts, can’t make any wrong cuts. You have to know exactly what you’re doing to be out there as a freshman. If not, you’re going to have to wait.”
The Gators might not have that luxury if Cronkrite or Scarlett need to wait. The good news for them is that it looks like they’ll both be ready contribute based on the early returns from fall camp. Even in practices that haven’t been in full pads, Scarlett shows an uncommon burst that will make him a home run threat in the Florida backfield. Cronkrite looks comfortable catching passes from the backfield and looks comfortable in the Florida offense.
“They're very coachable guys,” Taylor said.
Cronkrite and Taylor have built a close relationship during the last few months since the freshman got to campus.
“Jordan Cronkrite, that's my boy right there. That's my little man,” Taylor said with a grin. “He's going to be really good. He's really good. The guy is ready. I like him a whole lot. He listens. He really is a great young man. He's going to be a nice one. He's going to be a nice one in the future."
Scarlett came to Florida with the most hype. An Army All-American and consensus four-star recruit, he ran for 1,124 yards and scored 24 touchdowns while helping St. Thomas Aquinas win the 7A state championship. He has offers from most schools in the southeast but bought into McElwain’s vision at Florida and his history with NFL running backs.
"He's coming along, man, I'm telling you,” Taylor said of Scarlett. “Both of those guys are going to be really good. I feel like they just have to keep working, come to practice and just get better everyday. They're so willing to learn and they're very coachable. I like those guys. They're very humble and they're going to have a really nice backfield for years to come."
They aren’t the only freshmen standing out to Taylor. With all the questions about the Florida offensive line, former five-star recruit Martez Ivey has been standing out to many of the offensive players. Taylor was the most recent ones to mention him, staying that Ivey will help the Gators immediately.
“Oh my gosh, Martez Ivey,” Taylor said when asked about freshmen offensive linemen. “The guy’s a freak, dude. The guy’s going to be great. He wasn’t a five-star for nothing, trust me. He’s physical, he’s smart, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s a load. He’s going to be really good. I feel like him, there’s a couple more of those guys who may impact, but the one when I turn on film, I’m like, ‘Dang, who is that?’ I knew it was him. He wasn’t a five-star recruit for nothing.”
The practice field made it clear to Taylor that Ivey would be able to contribute as a true freshman, but he already had a good idea that would be the case from watching him during offseason workouts.
“You could tell, just his demeanor, just the way he carries himself around the locker room,” Taylor said. “He’s quiet, he gets his work done, he goes about the next play. The guy’s very mature, man. He’s going to be a really good one. Just remember I told you that. He’s going to be a really good one, trust me.”