Continuing our look at the Florida football team heading into spring drills and we take on the running back position. Unlike a year ago, there is competition in the ranks. Kelvin Taylor was the only healthy back for the spring and he stayed the course during the year as the starter all season. Taylor is gone to the NFL and now a couple of sophomores and a junior college transfer will fight it out.
If competition brings out the best in players, we should get a lot out of the running back position this spring. It really should be a wide open process to begin with and that makes it more fun.
Mr. This and That
Sophomore Jordan Cronkrite (5-11, 205) returns after a year where he was probably better than thought to be as a freshman. The yardage belies the ability that Cronkrite displayed in the 13 games he played in as a freshman. With 157 yards on 44 carries (3.6 yards per carry), Cronkrite was a solid runner that seemed to find the few holes that were allowed him when he ran. He runs with power and authority. The other thing that Cronkrite possesses is the ability to catch the ball either slipping out of the backfield or running routes down field. He caught 6 passes for 89 yards including a highlight reel 41 yard touchdown against South Carolina.
Cronkrite enters the spring as probably the most reliable pass protector as well which is a big deal in the Florida offense. His ability to do a lot of things makes him maybe the frontrunner in the race to win the job.
The Speed Merchant
For sophomore Jordan Scarlett (5-10, 198) the name of the game is speed. With 181 yards on 34 carries, his 5.3 yards per carry average was the highest on the team at the position. His 60 yard run against Georgia was the highlight of the year, but he had a couple of shorter runs that really flashed his speed around the edge. He will have to spend the spring honing his pass protection skills and that will come.
I also think it is important that they work Scarlett into the passing game. With his speed, he could line up at the slot and get a nice mismatch with a linebacker outside. Nobody knows what he will be like when he gets to run the ball more than just a few times a game as well. With learning everything he needs to know this spring we will get to see that.
Thunder and Lightning
Mark Thompson (6-2, 239) is one of the more intriguing newcomers to the Gators. With his size he also brings the speed. The junior college transfer was a track star at some point in high school and he can really move his 239 pound body.
Last season he carried the ball a whopping 265 times for 1,290 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a runner he is versatile in that he can slam the ball inside or he can beat you with his speed. He will be a little behind the other guys in terms of knowing the offense, but he’s a little more mature coming in as a junior. His team relied on him heavily to run the ball so it remains to be seen how fast he will pick up blocking schemes. Still, expect Thompson to compete right away with the two sophomores.
Better Late than Never
I am really only talking about the spring guys here, but I shouldn’t fail to mention Lamical Perine (5-10, 215) who will arrive in June after back-to-back 1500 yard rushing seasons. One thing I have learned in my years following Gator football is that it is hard to get by in any one season with less than four backs ready to go. Perine will be behind the eight ball when he arrives having a lot to learn, but I expect him to get on the field at some point in the year.