FOOTBALL: Sky is the limit for Skyler Thornton

Opportunity knocks for everyone in different ways. Sometimes extremely good talent rises to the top like in the form of true freshman Adrian Peterson, but for most collegiate athletes this is not the case. Climbing up the depth chart with a hardcore work ethic more often then not pays off in playing time.

Case in point, sophomore WR Chad Jackson was once a disheartened freshman looking to see the field. One year later, he's touting the nickname "Big Play" around campus. Florida's 2004 backfield is a different story though with the likes of fan favorite and imminent 1,000-yard rusher Ciatrick Fason in sole control of the starting job. However, when backup DeShawn Wynn hurt his groin in the Georgia game, opportunity arose for another young talented back.

Sophomore RB Skyler Thornton has been itching to get see the field since arriving in Gainesville two years ago. What impresses most about Thornton isn't what brings to the table on the field, but his understanding demeanor off the field.

"DeShawn and Ciatrick, they're good backs, but people have failed to mention me on other occasions," Thornton told the Miami Herald earlier this week. "I would love to show these people what I'm capable of. I've just got to go out and show them I'm a good back, too. This is my opportunity."

It is understandable to see where Thornton's level headedness comes from. When I went to Knoxville earlier this year, I got a chance to tail gate with the entire Thornton family. Fresh from LaGrange, GA, his dad went over the backfield situation with me.

He was more then respectful in saying that this was definitely C-4's year and that he was extremely talented, but 2005 would be a special for Skyler. Looks like Skyler will get a chance to give a sneak preview of what he can bring to the rushing table next year.

"I can still leave people with a lot to think about," Skyler added. "Watch out for Florida, they have a lot of great backs even though Ciatrick might not come back. We can go out and show people what we're capable of this year and next year."

This year, Thornton showed glimpses of what he could do next year when he entered the Florida-Georgia game in the 4th quarter. On the TD scoring drive that ended in a scoring pass to FB Billy Latsko, he has two rushes for 21 yards out of the shotgun set that got UF down to five-yard line.

He would go on to finish the game with 34 yards rushing on 5 attempts. His biggest game since this year's Kentucky victory where finished with 34 yards rushing again on 6 attempts, Thornton will get his shot to make the heads turn again this week against Vanderbilt.

At 5'11" 210 lbs., he finds himself as a unique back in the Gators quartet. He is shorter then incumbent starter C-4, lighter then injured bruiser Wynn, and heavier then currently red shirting freshman Marcus Manson. A quick back at heart, Thornton's true opportunity to rise atop the depth charts could come in the spring. It will be interesting to see how he handles catching the screen pass, a facet of the UF offense that is integral to any back.

"Skyler did a really nice job," Coach Ron Zook said earlier this week. "He's been practicing well. He'll have an opportunity to move up and get more playing time."

The opportunity is there for Skyler to make a name for himself as the 2004-year draws to a close, but 2005 will be the true calling for Thornton. He knows it, as does the rest of the Thornton family that is ever so supporting him from LaGrange, GA.

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