For the No. 10 Gators, Valdez Showers is something different.
During Saturday’s season opener, Showers -- Florida’s scat-back, speedy specialist -- quickly emerged as a surprising offensive weapon on a unit desperate for playmakers.
Just three weeks ago, the redshirt sophomore was buried on the depth chart at safety -- mostly battling for special teams snaps -- but after a sudden position change Showers has make a rapid rise as a potential linchpin in coordinator Brent Pease’s multi-package system.
In his first career game at ‘tailback’ against Toledo, Showers totaled six touches for 54 yards, including the game’s longest offensive play from scrimmage -- a 29-yard sprint on a gadget sweep.
"I feel good. I'm comfortable," Showers said after the victory over Toldeo. "Offense has always been easy to me."
Quarterback Jeff Driskel said Showers presents major matchup problems for defenses because they can’t identify his exact position.
“He’s definitely a threat out there. When he was on the field in the backfield, the [Toledo] defense was kinda calling him out and they didn’t really know how to handle him, whether to treat him as a running back or a receiver, so he’s a utility guy who can play all over the field,” Driskel said. “He’s only going to get better week-to-week because he hasn’t been on offense that much. He played a great game in his first game on offense, and I’m really glad he’s on our side of the ball.”
Florida coach Will Muschamp said he toyed with the idea of moving Showers, a former star high school tailback, to offense two years ago -- the week of the 2011 Auburn game -- but ultimately decided against it.
But when starting tailback Matt Jones went down with a serious viral infection during training camp, Muschamp revisited the old idea.
“Watching his film from high school, I always had that resonate in my mind. He was a guy that was pretty special with the ball in his hands, could do a lot of things are very natural to him,” Muschamp said. “‘Whatever I can do to help the team’ is exactly what he asked me. I said, ‘Right now I think you can help us more at running back. There’s no question you would help us compete for the starting job at safety, but we are going to create a role for you on our offense. Give it a couple of days.’ After two days, he was very natural with it.”
Showers’ role (and packages) will expand throughout the season, as Pease plans on utilizing Showers’ quickness and length in a similar role to Omarius Hines last season.
"The coaching staff was really excited about getting him [on offense],” Driskel said. “Coaches usually don't boost people up. They were real excited about having him, and he made an impact early in camp. He made some big plays. He's fast, he's quick, he's has good hands. I'm happy he's on offense. He's going to be a good player for us."
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