Cronkrite and then fellow freshman Jordan Scarlett arrived on campus in June a year ago. Way behind learning the playbook and everything else that comes with being a college athlete, both got on the field in 215 but it was sparingly behind junior Kelvin Taylor who would go on to rush for 1,000 yards.
Things are different now. Cronkrite is really familiar with the playbook and so he can just go out and perform at practice every day. He’s having a good time doing just that this spring.
"It's going pretty well,” Cronkrite told the media Wednesday after practice. “I'm excited. It's my first spring even though I was here last year. I’m excited to be out here with new faces and old faces. It's a great experience for me."
"I just listen, listen to coaching every day. It starts with the film and applying that to the field. I just take all the coaching and apply it to the field every day."
Cronkrite has been praised by the staff as a guy that can run between the tackles, but also get down field, catch the ball, and do something with it after the catch. WE saw the latter in the South Carolina game in 2015 when he went up against a defensive back, high pointed the ball, brought it in, and turned to race toward the end zone on a long pass play. That versatility is something that is allowing him to get on the field.
"It helps out a lot,” Cronkrite said of his pass catching ability. “They were able to get me out in space and just use the God-given ability that I have. It was just a great season for me last year."
Everyone wants to know who the starter is in the group, but the more days that go by in the spring, the more we are starting to see that it will likely be running back by committee. That is something he understands.
"We all just work hard,” Cronkrite said. “We push each other every day. It's an open competition, as we all know, but we just push each other every day -- film room, weight room, out here -- it's all good."
"I think we're all getting the same amount of reps at the ones. We all just push each other no matter if it's twos, threes, fours, or ones. We all just have to come out and work no matter, because it's always like a game when we practice out here."
With Taylor being the old guy on the block and on his way to a 1,000 yard season last year, there was one major thing that he impressed upon the younger guys when they got here. Do not, under any circumstance, fumble the ball.
Running back coach Tim Skipper has that same message every day.
"No fumbles,” Cronkrite said of key points. “No fumbles. Know your assignments and execute."
What happens if you fumble?
"You get an earful,” he said. “You're going to get clowned on film. Then we have up downs after practice so you don't want to do that."
"That was the first thing (Kelvin) actually told me on the practice field, 'Whatever you do, go hard but don't fumble it because you'll be the most hated man so don't fumble it."
Knowing what he is supposed to do and not supposed to do, it is all about the competition now. Of course all four guys would like to start, but Cronkrite understands that in the Southeastern Conference you need help toting the rock. One of the guys in the mix is junior college transfer Mark Thompson who is in his first few months on campus. At 6-foot-2 and 242 pounds Thompson is as big as they get at the position.
"I've had teammates his size, but never a running back his size,” Cronkrite said. "It's the SEC. It just takes hits off of each other. We all complement each other. He's a great guy to have in my position too as a teammate, so it's always great to have."
Cronkrite has the versatility to do everything asked=of him on the field and with that he wants to be utilized as an every down back.
"I do,” he said. “That's what I push (for). That's how I work out."
In the end, there is really only one thing that matters and whoever is out there making it happen is fine with him. If he’s the starter and the main guy running the ball, then fine.
"I just want to win to be honest with you,” he said. “If that's what the coaches bless me with then I take it and go and if not then I just keep pushing my teammates and we all make each other better."
Playing for Tim Skipper…
If you have seen Tim Skipper speak, it is easy to see why his players at the position like playing for him. He’s outgoing, generally happy, and a guy that seems to care about what is going on with the players.
"He's a clown,” Cronkrite said with a bit of a laugh. “He’s a good guy. He always clowns us about us being from Florida, not being from Louisiana. But he's a great guy. He's always going to look out for you. You can always call him no matter what time of day it is. He's always going to teach you right. He's never going to tell you wrong, so that's always great."
Within NCAA rules, Skipper’s coaching never stops.
"It's been great,” Cronkrite said. “He's always going to call us during the summer, during the spring. Whenever you have a question you can always hit him up. He really just tells us to keep our nose in the playbook, and we've been successful so far."
Ready to run behind this O-Line…
Florida’s offensive line has been a work in progress. A year ago the youth and inexperience up front was a huge issue and seven freshmen that were in the hunt to play just weren’t big and strong enough to get on the field. By the end of the year three of those freshmen were starting whether they were ready or not. Now those seven linemen are bigger and stronger and Cronkrite can see a difference.
"Body wise, they're getting stronger,” he said. “They're making up more time for the quarterbacks, bigger holes, it is great all around.
"They're working extra hard. They started as soon as we started with spring they took it upon themselves to get better every day. You can all see out here on the practice fields."