Player notes: Gators embracing underdog role

Florida players know what the national perception of the program is heading into the fall.

The Gators understand they’re not expected to do much this season. Many national publications have predicted Florida as the 12th best team in the Southeastern Conference, ahead of only Kentucky and Vanderbilt. They’ve seen the lists and had open conversations about how little national experts expect from them this fall.

"Oh yeah, we're always going to talk about that, but we're just ready to go out there and make plays and show people who we are," Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson said.

It’s understandable why the expectations nationally are so low for Gators. The credentialed media at SEC Media Days picked Florida to finish fifth in the SEC this year. Under first-year coach Jim McElwain, the Gators are in desperate search for a way to fix the offense. With an inexperienced starting quarterback this fall regardless of who wins the job, Florida will also have an offensive line with only one player that has ever started a game for the Gators.

The defense is still expected to be one of the best in the SEC, which gives the Gators a chance in any game on the schedule. However, the Florida players aren’t buying into the low expectations and have used it as motivation.

“Sometimes I think you need to be the underdog,” Florida defensive tackle Joey Ivie said. “I think sometimes you need people to doubt you because the worst thing you can do to somebody is doubt them. That just makes you more hungry.”

“I think our confidence is pretty high. I know we’re probably not ranked the highest right now. As a team, with Coach Mac, I think that we’re pretty confident. I think our offense has picked it up just because they’re going against a defense like ours. We’ve got a lot of players back, our defensive backs look great, our linebackers look great, I think our defensive line looks great and we’ve been working with the offense every day. That gives them a look that makes them better.”

YOUNG PLAYERS ON OFFENSE STANDING OUT: While the Gators search for ways to improve the offense, it looks like they’ll be leaning on a number of freshmen. The two names of skill players most often mentioned by the veterans are receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett.

Callaway committed to the Gators late in the process and the Booker T. Washington product has been the talk of the receiver position. He’s a smooth route runner with good hands that consistently catch the ball away from his body.

“He has potential (to be) really good,” Florida running back Kelvin Taylor said. “I feel like if he just he keeps going out there and making plays he definitely has potential to be a playmaker. I feel like he has great hands, though -- really good hands, and he has great routes (for) a freshman. I feel like (he’s) got to be a spark.”

Wilson added, “I like Callaway. Callaway’s going to be another great asset to the offense this year. I’m excited to see him play.”

Adam Lane’s transfer means Florida will have to count on Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite in the backfield behind Taylor. Even if Lane stayed, Scarlett proved in the first week of fall camp that he would be on the field. His size and speed combination makes him a freshman capable of handling the position in his first year.

“I feel like Jordan Scarlett is a complete back,” Wilson said. “He’s big, he’s fast, he can run you over, he can shake you, and he can catch. I just feel like that’s something we need. I feel like he can be as great as any of the great backs that have come through here.”

Tackling the Florida running backs hasn’t been fun for the linebackers in the early part of camp. Taylor was one of the standout players in the first scrimmage on Friday and Scarlett continues to impress. Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis even mentioned Cronkrite as one that could contribute this fall.

“Scarlett, he’s deceiving. He’s very deceiving,” Davis said. “Big body. He’ll shake you. But he’ll come back and also run through you. KT, he’s got the moves. It’s different. It’s weird. Coming out of each of them, you’ve got to be able to break down and make a tackle. You’ve got to beat them with your feet with both of them, but you’ve also got to be ready for that pop that Scarlett can give you.

“The other guy that stood out that you didn’t mention was Cronkrite. Man, he runs the ball hard. He runs the ball hard, one cut and go. I love that with him. I’m really looking forward to seeing Scarlett and Cronkrite do big things this year as well as KT.”

DIFFERENCE ON THE DEFENSIVE LINE: The Florida defensive linemen liked learning under Brad Lawing for the last two seasons, but Chris Rumph has brought a new energy to the position.

“Coach Lawing is more of an old-school coach. I appreciate everything he did,” Ivie said. “He was a good coach. But coach Rumph came in, and he’s taught us some new things, new techniques, new things he’s discovered over his time of coaching. I’ve definitely seen some changes in the d-line.

“Coach Rumph, he’s actually a loud coach. He’s real cool off the field. But coach Lawing was cool off the field, too. But when we’re on the field, coach Rumph turns that switch. He turns into that hard-butt coach that’s going to be on you the whole time.”

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