Head Coach Jim McElwain wasn’t hired to be the head coach of the Florida Gators football team because the Gators were lighting up scoreboards, breaking records (in a good way, at least) or winning games. McElwain was brought in to Florida to change the culture of a program that had fallen hard from the top of the college football mountain and to make Florida football fun and competitive again.
On offense, however, McElwain has two unproven and young quarterbacks in Treon Harris and Will Grier. Grier has never taken a snap in a college game and Harris played in nine games as a freshman including six starts but has just 111 pass attempts under his belt and is adjusting to a new offensive playbook and philosophy.
With questions at quarterback, McElwain’s offense may be a year or two away from the type of offense that he wants to run in Gainesville but he does have one thing going for him on offense, a stable of running backs that can carry the load for the offense as two young quarterbacks figure things out.
Junior Kelvin Taylor is atop the depth chart and ready to finally take his place as the feature back in the Florida Gators offense but behind him are two freshmen — Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite — that are ready and willing to carry the load for the offense until the passing game comes around.
“The freshmen backs we got, these guys, Scarlett reminds me of Trent Richardson, in college, not in the pros,” senior linebacker Antonio Morrison said. “Cronkrite, he runs like Adrian Peterson. He’s not as big as him, but this dude is just north and south. You already know about Kelvin Taylor, how good he is, how shifty his feet are. We’ve got good backs that can produce.”
Before you groan thinking about the past offenses that have made three yards and a cloud of dust look like the greatest show on turf, take a second to appreciate the depth that Florida has at running back. Despite losing Matt Jones and Mack Brown to the NFL and losing Adam Lane to a transfer, McElwain was still able to give the Gators one of the best and deepest running back groups in the SEC.
Taylor has come a long way in his three years at Florida. For a player who was the feature back on a high school team when he was in eighth grade and then the bell cow during a record-setting high school career, Taylor had to get used to sharing the spotlight and even being in the shadow of other backs in front of him. Taylor has matured a lot this off season, partly because he knows that he is the go-to guy right now in the offense, but he’s also done a good job of bringing the younger guys in and showing them the ropes.
“We’re just going to go out there and play our game,” Taylor said when asked if he was ready to carry the offense. “It’s a team sport, so we’re going to go out there and play our game.”
The other running backs behind Taylor know their place and their roles as well. Jordan Scarlett has looked like anything but a college freshman. The 220-pound running back has moves like a scat back but won’t shy away from contact.
“He’s pretty hard to tackle,” senior corner back Brian Poole said. “They’re both doing well. Both of them are running the ball real hard. I feel like they’re going to help us out a lot this year.”
Jim McElwain has promised that the Gators will take some deep shots this season. As a whole, the offenses promises to be a better unit with an offensive minded head coach, but if the objective is winning games on Saturday McElwain may be better suited to lean on his stable of running backs, at least until a decision is made at quarterback and the starter can get his feet wet.
“I’m so confident and just so ready to show everybody that we’ve been working hard and ready to have a great season this year,” said Taylor. “I’m ready.”
You have to learn to walk before you can run but the Florida Gators will need to run before the offense can learn how to fly.