It’s been 448 days since Jordan Scarlett got his last carry for the Florida Gators.
After spending the duration of the 2017 season away from all team activities due to his involvement in a case of credit card fraud, he is back for his redshirt junior season.
He has been granted a chance to redeem himself, but the leash is short. Dan Mullen and his coaching staff are high on accountability and will not accept any more missteps.
So many opportunities still lie ahead of Scarlett. He nearly lost his shot at his NFL dream because of silly mistakes, and letting his second chance at it go to waste would be the biggest mistake he could make.
Running backs coach Greg Knox is building a relationship with him and working to keep him on the right path on and off the football field so that does not happen.
“We talked about that last night,” Knox said. “We had a meeting on that last night about him taking advantage of this second opportunity. I think he understands the situation and understands the urgency of it and he’s trying to get it right.”
Before his suspension, Scarlett was in line to become Florida’s premier running back. He showed great potential behind Kelvin Taylor his freshman year and then took over as a starter by the end of his sophomore year.
He led the team with 189 carries, 889 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2016 to put himself well on the way to becoming one of the top running backs in the SEC by his junior season.
The suspension put that all on hold and the Gators were left to endure a 4-7 season without their best rusher.
He pushed himself and worked for the day he may have a chance to return, but being away still put him at a great disadvantage. While he’s still getting back to where he needs to be physically and mentally, he has impressed in the early going of spring practice.
“He’s done well,” Knox said. “He’s learning. He’s working himself back into what I call “playing form”. But right now, we’re kind of like taking baby steps. So, they’re learning a new offense, new terminology. But he’s doing a good job. He’s got a great background of football, so he’s picking things up pretty easy.”
With that, where does he stand?
Malik Davis is still working to get back, but he proved to be Florida’s best running back before going down with a torn ACL last season. Lamical Perine and Adarius Lemons also return for the Gators while Dameon Pierce and Iverson Clement are talented freshmen looking for early playing time.
There is a lot of competition left to play out before someone claims that lead role.
“Not yet,” Knox said of Scarlett separating himself. “We’re working towards that. There’s a lot of competition in that backfield. We’ve got a lot of great guys back there. It is a loaded backfield right now with a lot of guys working for that spot.”
Knox is still looking for Scarlett to step up as a leader and become the guy in that loaded backfield. He may not be there yet, but if he continues to progress the way he has so far and stays out of trouble off the field, there won’t be a way to keep him out of that spot.
Scarlett is bigger, stronger and could be better than ever for the Gators in 2018.