Gators RB Coach Skipper ready to unleash his bag of tricks

When you talk to Florida running back coach Tim Skipper about the position he coaches, you get the feel of a magician that has a bag of tricks to play with and use in many different ways, shapes, or forms. His infectious smile tells everything about what he thinks of the group he coaches.

Unlike a year ago when he had one guy in Kelvin Taylor that he knew he could lean on, a new spring is here and Skipper believes he has four running backs with different qualities that will allow the offense to do a lot of different things.

With four going hard this spring, the competition is fierce between senior Mark Herndon, junior Mark Thompson, and sophomores Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett.

 “(We have) real good competition,” Skipper said with a huge smile that tells you what he really thinks. “All new guys… we have some of the young guys that are in their second year playing, but didn’t play as much last year. Everyone is fighting to get on that field a little more. Scarlett’s been a little dinged up, but he came back Monday and looked fresh, looked pretty good. I am very excited about the future.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain talked last week about how the different backs complement each other. They each have different tools that they bring to the table to make a complete package.

Just picture Merlin the Magician delving into his bag of tricks with a big smile on his face as he looks to see what he can throw at the opposition.

“Jordan Cronkrite is an athlete,” Skipper said. “He can do a lot of things. You saw in the South Carolina game… he just went over the top and caught the deep ball. He gives us something out of the backfield that the other guys don’t. He can run good routes, he played receiver in high school, that kind of stuff.

“You look at Scarlett. He’s a bruising downhill runner. You have to wrap him up to get him down. He’s smart and understands angles and things like that. Protections are good and all that type of stuff. He’s that big back you are looking for.

“Mark Thompson is a good combination of all of that, he’s a heavier guy. He’s always going forward on contact, moving his feet, those types of things. His hands are sneaky good too. “He has real good hands for a big guy.

Kan Li / Scout
 “A guy that nobody’s talking about is Mark Herndon who I think is having a real good spring. He’s kind of a combination of all of that. He has real good feet, good jump-cuts in the hole and that type of stuff and he’s a real good receiver out of the backfield as well.

“We have a good combination of guys.”

Although they didn’t play a lot a year ago, Cronkrite and Scarlett got on the field and in some big time situations. That should be huge as we head into their second season on campus.

“Experience is everything, it’s invaluable,” Skipper said. “They both got a taste of what it’s like to play here at Florida. I think as we get going here at Florida and get to fall camp, they’re the veteran guys even though they are in their second year. You can see they don’t have the big eyes anymore. They are excited to come to practice every day and bang around with the defense.”

As for Thompson, he arrived in January from junior college, He hasn’t quite seen what it is like to play in the SEC and he is getting a taste of that at practice.

“I think the speed and how organized we are as far as in two hours we get a lot done,” Skipper said of what Thompson is grasping with the new scenery. “We are in different places on the field. Then, you have to be able to play every single day. It’s physical. It’s live. Let’s go get it. It took a little while there, we had a little lull there for a couple of days, but I think now he has picked up the speed and is having a good time.”

And Skipper said there is no need to hold Thompson back from being inserted at any time. He will be ready when his name is called.

“He runs with the ones, runs with the twos,” Skipper said. “There are no hold backs. He knows it just as well as the other guys do. He’s picked it up very well. We do a lot of stuff meeting room wise that simulates game action. He’s picked it up and there isn’t a play we have that I am concerned with him in there.

While some may be better than others, all four of the backs can catch the ball and do things in the passing game that should allow for an even more open game plan.

“You can take your whole offense to a whole other (level),” Skipper said about having guys that can catch the ball and do something with it. “When you can get the backs out and they’re not just blocking every time we throw it and they are actually free releasing and chipping on guys and releasing late. The one thing is when they catch it, they can make things happen. So, its invaluable man, it’s awesome.”

Kan Li / Scout
 McElwain was asked about leaning on one guy or using multiple to run the ball. A year ago they really didn’t have a choice with Cronkrite and Scarlett being brand new and Kelvin Taylor being the guy that had a couple of years under his belt and a healthy spring to learn the new system. McElwain and Skipper both agree that they would like to use

“The more the better… if you’re able to play I am going to give you a chance to get out there. I think Coach Mac and Coach Nuss do a good job of using the backs. At the previous places he’s been, they’ve used a lot of backs, so we are going to try and stay on that model and whoever can play will get out there and play.

Now back to the fun. Skipper is going to have a blast as they keep teams guessing.

“I think our biggest strength is you aren’t going to know where we’re at… meaning we can line up in the backfield, we can line up in empty, we can be in GUN, we can be in PISTOL, we can be under center, we can run out of the backfield and in some routes… we can do a lot of things and I think we are going to give defenses fits,” he said.

With every word out of his mouth you can tell that Skipper thinks this s going to be one fun group to coach.

“We keep each other looking forward to the next day,” he said. “It’s a good group, but they know when they get out here it’s serious, it’s ready to go, and it’s a true competition. Any time there is a competition, it’s always fun.”

Kan Li / Scout

Fightin Gators Top Stories