Position Preview: Kelvin Taylor

Kelvin Taylor has the high school stats, the pedigree and the talent to be a difference maker at the college level. As he enters his junior year at Florida, he knows that he will be taking on a bigger role. Expectations might be high, but he seems to be confident with his ability to be the starting running back for the Gators. How he performs could really determine what type of season Florida has in 2015.

In the last two seasons, Taylor has been asked to share touches with Matt Jones and Mack Brown. Jones left school after his junior year, and Brown graduated. That leaves Taylor as the veteran on this roster, and he should get the most touches at running back this year. Jim McElwain likes to use multiple running backs, so anyone playing in fantasy football money leagues should not be expecting huge numbers out of him.

When your dad is Fred Taylor, expectations are always going to be pretty high. Kelvin’s father not only played at the same school, but he played the same position. His 1,292 yards on the ground will probably not be matched by his son, but that certainly does not mean that Kelvin is not able to play at a high level.

The younger Taylor is great at getting into open space and breaking off huge runs. People were able to see a glimpse of what he can do in 2014, when he ran for 197 yards against Georgia. With a bit more consistency and additional touches, he could really start to put up numbers in 2015 that make him one of the best in the SEC.

Freshmen Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkite are most likely going to be the other running backs used by McElwain this season. The coaching staff is trying to develop a system in which all of their running backs can feed off each other and also learn. Taylor is now in a leadership role, and that includes off the field as well. When a player becomes a junior, they are no longer in the learning phase of their college career. Taylor becomes an important piece for this new era of Florida Gators football, and he seems up for the challenge.

65 Reasons to Be Happy, If Even for a Moment

65-0 should be enough. For me, it is.

I woke up Sunday morning—one day after our beloved Florida Gators dismantled Eastern Michigan—and took to Twitter. There was plenty of positivity in Gator Nation and, for the most part, fans were happy. But there were still the few. Those that have to find the flaw in the win. Those that may finally be happy at an undefeated season and a national championship. Those that may never be pleased.

Kelvin Taylor - Florida Gators

That’s their right. Every fan has that right. Cheer when you want; critique when you feel the need. The type of fan a person chooses to be is a choice they stand by and I’m not here to tell them they’re wrong. All I’m here to do is to say that I’m happy and that happiness will last for more than just one moment.

EMU was far from an SEC opponent. They were not a world-class team. The Gators should have beaten them 65-0. But here’s the thing: one season ago, Florida didn’t beat the teams they were supposed to beat. The Gators lost to Georgia Southern at home. Go back one season further and you find a narrow win over Louisiana. Lately, Florida hasn’t been taking care of business against the teams they’re heavily favored against. Saturday was different; be happy.

To start, we saw football. The game wasn’t delayed. There wasn’t one play hours after the scheduled kickoff. There wasn’t a postponement that turned into a cancellation. Instead, there was football. Good football at that. For 60 minutes, it felt like the orange and blue channeled the teams of old. 65 points, 655 yards, and big plays. Oh those big plays. I grew up in the PlayStation generation. Video game offenses didn’t exist in real life, but they could get close. Steve Spurrier kept scoring. The brakes were never applied. That was Saturday. When your backup quarterback—a true freshman making his first appearance in The Swamp at that—goes deep on his first pass attempt (AND COMPLETES IT FOR A 70-YARD TOUCHDOWN!!!) you aren’t letting up.

Let’s stop there for a second and look at Treon Harris’s line:

2 completions, 2 pass attempts, 148 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1,051.6 rating.

Read that last stat again. The highest rating a college quarterback can possibly achieve is 1,261.6. To do so, he would have to have every pass attempt result in a 99-yard touchdown completion. Harris was darn close.

Yes, I know it was against a team without a great defense and he was doing so late in a blowout, but those facts do little to diminish what was a great first showing by the freshman. We may have ourselves quite the backup quarterback.

There were plenty of more good performances in the win. Jeff Driskel was solid and looked calm in Kurt Roper’s offense. The running game accounted for 259 yards on the ground and the trio of Kelvin Taylor, Matt Jones, and Mack Brown averaged 8.7 yards per carry. Demarcus Robinson had 5 catches for 23 yards his freshman season; he had 6 for 123 and a touchdown on Saturday. Clay Burton led the team with 7 catches, more than doubling his career total of 3 going into the game. Andre Debose looked like the player we thought he could be all those years ago. Duke Dawson had quite the debut. Brian Poole was everywhere on defense. And the entire defense was smothering. Like I said, I’m happy.

Many will call this a warm-up game, and they would be correct in doing so. The Gators were supposed to get two warm-up games. Lightning wiped that plan away. Now, Florida will head to SEC play with one game and a big win under its belt. Kentucky has not looked like the Kentucky of old and could present a challenge, but I will gladly accept that challenge after Saturday’s showing. There are many worse ways to go into your first SEC game.

The Gators will be favored, and rightfully so, but we may not completely know what we have just yet. An explosive offense, check. A shutdown defense, check. Capable special teams, check. All looked good on Saturday and that’s enough to keep me positive, so for now I will be.

In one game, the Gators answered as many questions as a team could in only 60 minutes. There are 10 games to go, though, and Florida will be questioned going into every one. That’s fine and perfectly acceptable, but all I ask is that you try to keep that positive outlook. I’m not sure if cheering for a team is all that much fun if you go into a game seeking gloom and doom. Call it naiveté, but I enjoy hope and I’ll keep that hope going a little longer after the 65-0 win.

As for Kentucky, there’s a win streak to keep alive. We’ve seen some of those fall recently and would like the bleeding to stop. Let’s keep the Kentucky streak alive and in a few weeks extend the Tennessee streak. The Gators may not be a championship-caliber team yet, but they need to win the ones they should. Fall against the Wildcats and progress may be a dream at the moment. Handle their business against Kentucky and go into the Alabama game with two impressive wins and we’re headed in the right direction. All in all, just win. Win more then you lose. Don’t go 4-8. Becoming the orange and blue we all know they can be.

It’s hard to imagine that after just another 60 minutes, we’ll be a quarter of the way through the season. AH! MAKE IT SLOW DOWN! We were shorted a game and now that the season has started, it’s going ahead full force. 10 games to go, each one counts, blah, blah, blah. I could hype it up one hundred different ways. You don’t need me to get you hyped for the first SEC game. You know the importance. Go Gators! And again, Just Win!

Matt Jones Undergoes Surgery; Running Back Out for Spring

On Wednesday, Florida running back Matt Jones underwent another surgery on his left knee. While Jones is actually ahead of the recovery timetable, the surgery will keep him out of Spring practice.

Matt Jones, Florida Gators

Jones was in the midst of a promising, although frustrating, sophomore campaign when he went down with the injury. He only appeared in five games during the 2013 season, with his yards per carry average going up and down.

The duo of Jones and freshman Kelvin Taylor was expected to be a good one, but we only saw the two carry the ball in the same game twice. There was no two-headed monster, much to the dismay of Gators’ fans.

In Wednesday’s press conference, head coach Will Muschamp mentioned that Jones’s knee was 90 percent healed. Jones is progressing nicely and should be ready to go in time for Fall practice.

Also missing the Spring sessions are linebackers sophomore Alex Anzalone, redshirt sophomore Jeremi Powell, and redshirt freshman Matt Rolin.

First Half Lead Evaporates as the Florida Gators Lose 5th Consecutive Game

The Florida Gators won the first half on Saturday against the South Carolina Gamecocks 14-6. Two weeks ago, they won the second half against the Georgia Bulldogs 17-0. The real story, however, lies in the other halves of each of those games. For the second time in the last three games, the Gators couldn’t put together 60 minutes of football and as a result now sit at 4-6 after a fifth-straight loss.

Skyler Mornhinweg - Florida Gators

There was hope in this one. It wasn’t the hope of coming from behind for a change. No, this time around, there was hope because of the lead the Gators had put together. Florida’s offense looked like it had pulled all of the pages out of Navy’s playbook. There was motion everywhere and handoffs left and right to backs going in every possible direction. And for a few moments it actually seemed to work.

Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor had a season-high 21 carries, a season-high 96 yards, and (you guessed it) a season-high two touchdowns. He looked, as he has for most of the season even when running behind a pieced-together offensive line, every bit the star he was projected to be. In a season where good feelings have become a thing of the past, Taylor is a bright light guiding us to a promising future. He was fun to watch when he was in high school and he’s fun to watch in orange and blue.

But all good things must come to an end and Taylor’s productive first half gave way to a second half during which South Carolina’s defense tightened. Not having to worry much about the Gators’ passing game, the Gamecocks could key on slowing the running game. That defense did its job, shutting out Florida for the final 30 minutes. In reality, the Gators last score came with 10:51 remaining in the second quarter. 19:09 – 14 points; 40:51 – 0 points. The seemingly hot start cooled rapidly.

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With a Week Off Before Georgia, The Florida Gators Need an Offensive Rebirth

The Florida Gators don’t play this Saturday. Some of you may actually be breathing a sigh of relief knowing that. I am with you. I need a break, and I’m just a fan. I’m not a player and I’m definitely not the head coach or offensive coordinator. The players need a week off, Will Muschamp and Brent Pease need an extra week to determine the direction they’re going to head, and fans need a nice, relaxing Saturday with nothing on the line.

Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs

I will be perusing college football betting at TopBet, looking for games I can watch in a calm environment that doesn’t include me pacing in front of my television. Surprisingly, this season has been a calming one for me when experiencing our losses. I know that sounds, well, off and not right at all, but here’s the scenario: the losses to Miami and Missouri had me at home alone with my one-year-old son and the loss to LSU saw me in Minneapolis for a wedding. The losses stung like they always do, but I had plenty to distract me immediately following their conclusion. I didn’t have the opportunity to stew in the pain of defeat; I had to move on quickly. If another L works its way on to the Gators’ record, I hope I can find something else to take my mind away.

During the bye week, I’ll be relaxing (actually, I’ll be taking a redeye back from San Francisco only to return home to a pile of housework). The Gators, however, will not be. They will be wondering what happened to the defense against Missouri, but—most important—they will continue the hunt for offense. Are we at the point where tweaks are no longer the answer? Does the entire offense need to be re-imagined and reborn? The answer to both is yes. Muschamp, Pease and the Gators need to try something new. Slogging through the rest of the season with the current offense will see a team with talent crash and burn several more times.

We could make a list of aspects of the offense to look at. Actually, let’s go ahead and do it:

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Florida Gators Lose to Missouri; Have the Wheels Fallen Off?

In many sports, 4-3 isn’t an awful record; a win percentage like that may even get you into the playoffs. In college football, 4-3 is a disaster. With their latest loss—this time to the surging Missouri Tigers—the Florida Gators are 4-3 and in a position where all hope may seem lost. There’s still a chance for 10 wins (always a good thing), but the Gators would have to win out. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone that currently believes Florida has a chance of doing that. In order to come even close, the Gators must first find an offense.

Kelvin Taylor, Florida Gators

NCAA expert betting lines (click here for view more) will tell you Mizzou isn’t a bad team. In fact, they’ll tell you the Tigers are a very good team. Sometimes losing to a team of that respect can lessen the blow, but not when you lose the way the Gators did. While the offense I already mentioned looked for any possible way to move the ball, the defense finally gave in. Try as they might, Florida was no match for Missouri on either side of the ball. When hope was briefly restored after Solomon Patton’s kickoff return, it was quickly taken away by the Tigers’ offense.

Before the game started, I would have told you I was 50-50 on the outcome. The Gators’ defense had the talent and ability to keep Florida in any game regardless of the opponent and, if the offense could do just enough to put a few points on the board, then the orange and blue would be right in it. Add that to the fact that the Tigers would be without quarterback James Franklin and the Gators had a real shot to take down a ranked opponent. Unfortunately, it was the other side of that 50-50 that would prevail.

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Florida Gators Search for Offense with Another Ranked Opponent on the Horizon

Raise your hand if you are pleased with what Will Muschamp has done with the Florida Gators’ defense. If your hand isn’t raised, it should be. The Gators have a head coach that has lost defensive talent to the NFL and injury, but has still produced once of the best units in the nation. It’s Muschamp’s specialty; he made a name for himself as a defensive coordinator before he became the successor to the man we so wish we could never name again. Unfortunately, for Muschamp’s legacy, he is also making a name for himself as a head coach that can’t fit all the pieces together on the other side of the ball.

Will Muschamp and Brent Pease, Florida Gators

First the good (or, at the very least, the acceptable). Against LSU, the Gators managed 17 first downs (not an awful number), converted three of their four fourth-down attempts, didn’t turn over the ball, and saw extended action from freshman phenom running back Kelvin Taylor, who finished with 52 yards on 10 carries.

Now to the bad, or ugly. The Gators converted only six of 17 third-down attempts, managed just 240 yards of total offense, didn’t have a play go for more than 20 yards, gained 4.6 yards per pass and 2.8 per rush, lost starting running back Matt Jones for the season, and scored only six points despite winning the time of possession battle by more than eight minutes.

What has become somewhat of a pattern with the Gators of late, brings up two questions: 1) Will Muschamp ever be able to truly lead a team on both sides of the ball?, and 2) Should Brent Pease be the offensive coordinator?

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Orange and Blue Debut Becomes Glorified Practice; Are the Days of a Spring ‘Game’ Gone?

The Orange and Blue Debut was more spring practice and less spring game this time around, and it may be a sign of things to come.

Jeff Driskel - Florida Gators

Under former head coach Urban Meyer, the Florida Gators’ annual spring game took on a differing look depending on the whim of the coach. In mid-game, if Meyer wanted the field goal unit to keep kicking and kicking and kicking, they did just that. Under current head coach Will Muschamp, not much has changed. Gone may be the days of a true game and here to stay may be a glorified practice designed to end the spring in front of Florida fans in The Swamp.

There were reasons for the altered format and it had mostly to do with injuries. A depleted offensive line only allowed the Gators a practice environment. Without the ability to run out two full units, Florida turned the spring game into a scrimmage at times and a practice session at others. It came down to whatever works and whatever you can do with what you have.

There’s little to take from the Gators’ spring game, and even less so if it truly becomes a practice session like it did on Saturday. For every spring star that doesn’t bring that talent with him to the fall, there is a player that is relatively quiet during the spring semester only to break out when the games that count begin. Feel free to be disappointed now or overly excited at the prospect of a breakout star, but keep most of whatever it is you are thinking bottled up until August 31.

It’s hard to gauge exactly how much quarterback Jeff Driskel has improved. The passing game has to develop; that much we know. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease may find himself looking for work elsewhere if it doesn’t. It starts and ends with Driskel as he will enter the 2013 season as the undisputed leader of the offense. That wasn’t the case before the 2012 season. An 11-2 record may have given the soon-to-be junior some confidence heading into 2013, but now he needs to make the plays to go with it. Driskel can use his running ability to his advantage, but with a talented stable of running backs, he may not need to. He needs to develop as a passer and stretch the field. We’re all waiting for the fireworks to come back to Florida’s offense. And we’re long past waiting patiently.

Speaking of the running backs, the starting job belongs to Matt Jones and that’s a good thing. Jones came on strong in limited action as a freshman, ending the 2012 regular season with his coming out party in the victory over instate rival Florida State. Jones has distanced himself from the pack during spring practice, but there’s still talent behind him. Mack Brown has stuck around and hopes to earn carries and then there’s the player we’ve all been waiting for years to see in a Gators’ uniform. Kelvin Taylor didn’t disappoint on Saturday and we all hope he has many more successful Saturdays in his future.

Like Taylor, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson enrolled early and was able to participate in spring practice. Unfortunately for Robinson, he missed eight practices due to a high-ankle sprain. Despite not being entirely healthy, the freshman was still able to show what he can bring to offense on Saturday. And fans weren’t the only ones impressed by Robinson. Muschamp is ready for Robinson to step in right away and cornerback Jaylen Watkins had the following to say:

“He got an injury and instead of backing down, he took on the challenge to go into the training room and get better and pushed out there while he was hurting. Today he was limping and still making great catches. When you see a guy like that, you know he has something great.” – Jaylen Watkins, Cornerback, Florida Gators

The spring has ended for the Gators and now the true wait begins. We have more than four months before we see the orange and blue in action again and all we have until then are the memories of the spring game that wasn’t a game at all. That leaves us plenty of time to discuss debate the good and the bad we expect to see from the Gators in the fall. It may be premature, but it feels mildly appropriate to break out the first one of these for the 2013 season now–just win.

Defining Season Begins On Saturday For Florida Gators Running Back Mack Brown

Mike Gillislee is the Florida Gators starting running back. We know this, and we’re also aware of his lofty expectations for the 2012 season. Behind him is a group of backs with very little game experience. There’s a true freshman, a converted defensive back/linebacker, and Mack Brown.

Brown came to Florida with the hype that surrounds most four-star recruits. In the two seasons since, he has 65 yards rushing on only 15 carries. Three of those carries came during a true freshman season that he was fortunate enough to get a redshirt out of. As a redshirt freshman in 2011, more was expected. The result was 12 total carries, 10 of which came in one game. To say Brown’s career hasn’t gone as expected thus far is an understatement. BUT…he has three years of eligibility left.

Gillislee is a senior, so the role of his backup is a coveted one. The Gators haven’t had a primary go-to back in…let’s not even bother to count how long…so the backups will get work. Add that to the fact that in 2013, Florida will be looking for a starter and you have quite the desirable position to be in if your Brown. He’ll compete for carries in 2012, but if he plays well enough when called upon, he may earn more in 2013.

This season could define Brown’s career as a Gator. Play well and earn more for the future. Underachieve and we’ll hear even more about Matt Jones, Chris Johnson, Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane. There’s plenty of talent at the position and more coming. One misstep and anyone of those names could find themselves buried deep down the depth chart. Brown has to prove, on the field, that he’s worthy of that No. 2 spot.

2013 Football Recruiting: Athlete Derrick Henry No Longer Committed To Georgia Bulldogs

During the 2012 recruiting cycle, an athlete from the 2013 class jumped to the top of many wish lists. While programs focused on putting together their 2012 classes, they couldn’t help but notice Yulee, FL (Yulee) athlete Derrick Henry. One of the nation’s best in his class, Henry was a want of nearly every major program in the nation. Among those were the Florida Gators.

With a need a running back, wide receiver, and virtually every other position Henry could conceivably play, the Gators kept an eye on Henry. There was even a time when Florida was considered the leader. But not long after that news began to surface, Henry pulled the trigger and committed to Georgia. After 11 months and numerous other visits, Henry is a free agent again. On Wednesday, the athlete announced he was no longer committed to the Bulldogs.

The news comes after a weekend Henry spent at Alabama – considered to be among his favorites. Also on that list is another SEC program, Tennessee. It seems more and more likely that Henry will end up in the Southeastern Conference, but Georgia may now be a long shot.

As for Florida? Well, the Gators could be as well. Since Henry’s commitment to the Bulldogs, the Gators have added Adam Lane and Kelvin Taylor. Although Henry has also been mentioned as a possible receiver or defensive back, Florida has added numbers at those positions as well. They could always use more, but a lot of time has passed with Henry.

The coaching staff may test the waters and see where Henry’s mind is now that he is no longer committed to Georgia, but nearly one year after being rumored as the leader for him, Florida has an uphill battle if they want to join in the fight again.