Sitting next to his roommate Lamical Perine at Florida Gators media Day Jordan Scarlett made it be known that he has a clear goal for this season. The junior running back came close in 2016 but fell 111 yards short of 1,000 rushing yards for the season. He doesn’t want to fall short of that benchmark again.
“Definitely a goal of mine,” Scarlett said of becoming the Gators 12th 1,000-yard rusher in school history. “I would like to be a 1,000-yard rusher before I leave here. I don’t really have any other goals, I’m just trying to win games.”
Scarlett managed to almost eclipse the 1,000-yard mark last season despite carrying the ball on just 40% of the Gators running plays. In fact, it took two of the Gators’ four running backs to be suspended for the Georgia game, Florida’s seventh game of the season, for Scarlett to get more than 12 carries in a game.
With four running backs the Gators decided to try and keep everyone fresh by rotating guys throughout the game. Other than Mark Thompson being the third down and goal line back, there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason when players were being substituted in and out of games. It, in part, led to the Gators finishing dead last in rushing in the SEC (128.23 yards per game).
The running back by committee failed. Early on it was apparent that Scarlett and freshman Lamical Perine were the best running backs and should be carrying the load. It just didn’t play out that way.
“Considering last year, I don’t think splitting carries would be a good thing because it obviously got us ranked last,” Scarlett said Friday. “But I don’t know, that’s not up to me.”
In Florida’s first six games last year they rushed the ball 227 times. Scarlett carried the ball just 67 times, 30 percent of the carries, around 11 carries a game. Over the next seven games the Gators rushed the ball less (225 rushes) than they did in the first six games but Scarlett’s workload increased to 112 carries, an average of 16 carries a game. Only three times (Georgia, South Carolina, LSU) did Scarlett exceed more than 50% of the workload among the running backs.
He averaged five yards per carry; significantly better than the 3.6 yards per carry the rest of the team averaged.
Scarlett isn’t one to just sit in front of cameras and throw shade. He understands that he wasn’t as complete of a running back as he could have been last season and that might have led to him sharing carries more often than he would like. That’s what he set out to change that in the offseason.
“I’m always trying to perfect my craft working on my hands and my footwork,” he told Gator Country at media day. “I think the biggest thing was working on my footwork to make safeties miss and create explosive runs.”
He spent the offseason with his IPad going back over game film form 2016 to see how different defenses blitzed so he could improve as a pass blocker.
“The best thing I could do is just try to watch film, see how defenses blitz,” he said. “When we get back into pads I’ll be able to work on the actual blocking.”
Scarlett spent the offseason trying to add weapons to his arsenal, perfect his craft and give the coaching staff less of a reason to take him off the field regardless of down and distance. He knows he can’t do it alone, he won’t take every handoff but he’s earned the respect of his teammates and his coaching staff and should be the lead back for the Gators in 2017.
“That guy right there, he works real hard, so I’m pretty sure he’s going to be the lead back this year but all of us will be taking carries,” running back Lamical Perine said. “We’re very close friends. We talk every day. Anytime I have any questions that I have to ask him, he doesn’t mind answering them. He’s not a selfish guy at all.”