The Florida Gators have lacked balance on offense the past four years. Without a quarterback they could trust, the Gators leaned heavily on their running game and running backs.
In 2014 the Gators ran the ball 517 times out of their total 841 plays — roughly 61% of the time — averaging just 4.36 yards-per-carry, 10th in the SEC.
If his past is any indication, Jim McElwain will bring a balance to Florida in the form of his pro-style offense. Last season at Colorado State, McElwain’s offense ran 882 plays, 435 rushes and 447 pass attempts. Despite a nearly 50-50 split between rushing and passing, the Rams still threw for more than 4,000 yards.
McElwain’s balance between the run and pass opens up defenses, makes them play true to both attacks and creates opportunity for every skill player on offense.
“This is pro style. Straight pro style everything,” Kelvin Taylor said. “Downhill, one-cut. I feel like this offense should be great and I’m excited to carry the ball. I can’t wait.”
The Gators will strive for balance but with a starting quarterback that will be either a sophomore or redshirt freshman, will need to lean on the running game early on to get the offense going. This spring, the running backs are being taxed in practice. With low numbers, every back is getting a ton of carries and as the pads come on and the days grow hotter, things will only get more strenuous the rest of camp.
Currently, Taylor and Adam Lane are splitting first team reps as the two want to show the new coaching staff that they have what it takes to carry the load. Lane has been nursing an injury — one that caused him to miss practice on Wednesday.
“It’s been a good competition. Lane’s a little nicked up right now, and again, it’s hard to compete for the job when you’re on the sidelines,” McElwain said. “KT is doing an outstanding job. He’s a guy that’s awful fun, really enjoys the game and has great energy. I like the way things are going with him.”
Taylor came to Florida with lofty expectations, expectations from the fans, his father (Gator Great Fred Taylor) and, most importantly, expectations he’s had for himself. Taylor hasn’t lived up to his own expectations the past two seasons but he’s taking advantage of a clean slate, a new coaching staff and increased opportunity.
“The only thing I wanted to do last year was just let my team win,” Taylor said. “Everyone saw when I got a little glimpse here and there when I got the ball, I was capable of doing things. So I’m just going to keep going out there and working my butt off, working my butt off everyday and have trust in my offensive lineman and everything else is going to be great, so I’m just ready to have a great season this year.”
If his past performance isn’t motivating enough, a fresh crop of running backs that will enroll this summer should be a good motivator as Taylor continues to seek the feature back role he’s longing for.
“Obviously, come fall, there’s going to be a lot of competition coming in at that spot,” McElwain said. “That’s kind of where we’re at right now. We’re thin at a lot of spots, linebackers and o-line, as you guys know, and running backs is another one.”
This summer, Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite will enroll at Florida and both running backs — Scarlett in particular — appear to be college ready; plug-and-play type of players.
Of course, everyone thought that Taylor would be that type of player when he enrolled early at Florida. Scarlett and Cronkrite are promising players but Taylor has he experience. Still, there will be plenty of carries to go around and Taylor knows that he must earn his reps, just like everyone else.
“I feel like just this offense is just an offense that’s really, to be honest, just a running back’s dream to be in,” Taylor said. “It’s perfect for a back. Zone read, one cut, downhill, catch the ball out the backfield. You got so many things you can do in this offense, and I think it just fits me perfect, so I’m excited.”