Jordan Scarlett is the alpha in the running back room

The running back by committee thing lasted a little too long for most Gator fans a year ago. Most watching Florida football could see the talent that the different backs possessed and any of them could rattle off something big at any time on the field. But for most, there was one guy that seemed to bring it on every play. His position coach says he’s been the alpha in the room.

Decisive might be the best definition of the way Jordan Scarlett runs the football. Like a man that wants to punish anyone that gets in his way, you won’t find many backs that run the ball as hard as Scarlett.

Florida running back coach Ja'Juan Seider says his pupil is one that runs with a purpose.

"I like that he knows who he is as a running back,” Seider said Monday of Scarlett. “You know, he's not a guy who's going to sit there and juke and try to make a lot of people miss. He's going to put his foot in the ground and go forward and I think as a running back, when you find yourself early you play to your strength. Right now, he's playing to his strength."

Seider has known Scarlett since the eighth grade because of the recruiting circles he has and the area he has recruited. Before Florida, Scarlett always had so much talent around him. He didn’t need to be great. Seider thinks that the young man is about to make a name for himself.

“You know what, I see him taking off,” Seider said. “He was a kid who always had natural ability, he was always big, he was always fast, he was always strong. He (never) had to take over the game because he always had great talent around him. I’m starting to see him now, in the spring, take over things. You know he broke off one last week for like 75-80 yards, you know again, trusting himself, pressing, and replacing guys up the field, doing the little things that you talk about in the meeting room that carry over to the field.”

Scarlett is at the point now where he’s used as an example among his peers.

“Jordan has had a great camp,” Seider said. “Every day, he's getting better. He's been the alpha in the room. He's bringing it every day, and I told the running back room it starts with us. If we come out here and perform our best, guys are going to feed off it. If we don't, it's going to be a lot of pressure on the young quarterbacks."

As much as Scarlett has taken the lead in the running back room, he can’t carry the ball every play and he won’t. Getting a feel for just what kind of load he can handle, also the way to get the best out of the rest of a talented room is what Seider is spending his time doing this spring.

"I don't know that question yet… that's a hard question to answer,” Seider said when asked how many carries he thinks Scarlett can handle. “We're in spring practice, and we're pushing these guys to the limit and they're responding. It's different on Saturdays because every drive is different. We might have a drive where it's a five-play drive and then you might have a drive where it's a 16-play drive. They're going to be tired. You need to get them out and get them fresh and then you never know how many plays you're going to play on any given day. It could be a 50-play game or it could be a game where we get 80 snaps. It depends on how we're doing on offense. There's a lot that dictates how they play in a game."

These guys also do a lot, and with the talent of sophomore Lamical Perine and senior Mark Thompson and what they can add, he’s got to find the right places to get them in.

“We ask the guys to do so much from running routes, to blocking, to run the ball,” Seider said. “They’re going to get tired. It’s hot, it’s humid. I can play multiple guys.

“I think a fresh back is better than a tired back. You always remember that as a coach because that’s when bad things happen. If a kid’s hot, he’s hot, as long as he can keep going. But if he’s looking over to the sideline, he need a blow, you gotta get him out the game. Especially when you’ve got other guys you can put in and not miss a beat.”

With Scarlett in the lead, there is no quit from Thompson or Perine to unseat the guy in the lead. They want to play and at the same time, Seider loves the fact that they have each other’s backs.

 “I think we’re very competitive,” he said. “I think we’ve got a very unselfish room, which is important especially when you’ve got one ball and I think the guys have been very competitive in everything they do. Who can score? Who can get the first down? Who can get that block? It’s competitive nature. Nobody is saying I should be getting this, I should be getting that. It’s a room that is pulling for each other. I’m very pleased with that.”

He said these two still are on a learning curve.

"I think sometimes you forget Lamical's still a freshman and sometimes he's the kid that you have to keep coaching even though he played last year,” Seider said. “Even Mark, to trust himself for a big guy, sometimes just going forward and falling forward you're going to get an extra yard. Just getting him to understand those and trust what we're doing coaching-wise and he has. Those kids are responding.”

One of the things that McElwain harped all of last year is getting more explosive plays out of the running back position. The talent is there, and the play of the offensive line wasn’t what it should be this year. The expectation is for a group of backs that will hit on big plays much more often. Seider is seeing that.

 “Yeah, I think the guys are doing a good job,” he said of popping off explosive plays during spring practice. “I thought we had a really good scrimmage as far as the running back room, you know as far as the running backs making explosive plays and not harping on the negative play. We always talk about play the next play. You know (the defense is) going to win a battle, they’re on scholarship too. You have to be able to respond and play the next play.”

As for weaknesses in the group, Seider couldn’t name any. He just wants more like the ones he has. He should get two good ones in June when freshmen Adarius Lemons and Malik Davis are expected on campus.

"Well, I think the weakness is we don't have enough of them yet,” he said. “We have to get those other kids in here to create depth. We're playing with three guys. That's a lot of reps. You'd like to have four or five. I'm greedy. I'd like to have six in the room that can play. I think if you ask me, that's the difference right now."

 


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