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The learning curve

If you had Kelvin Taylor as Florida’s second-leading rusher -- 43 yards on five carries -- in Saturday’s win over Toledo, kudos.

Taylor -- an early enrollee -- starred in UF’s Orange & Blue Debut in the spring, but the freshman’s monumental expectations were promptly tempered during a frustrating training camp due to issues in pass protection, ball security and general system knowledge.

While Taylor was never in the coaches’ doghouse, the freshman was buried on the depth chart as others (Mack Brown, Mark Herndon, Valdez Showers) emerged. A potential redshirt season -- IMO, it was nothing more than a motivational ploy -- was discussed publicly by Will Muschamp.

But after Saturday’s strong debut in the fourth quarter -- an especially delightful treat for the fans who battled the heat and stuck around for Florida’s final drive -- Taylor’s progress was addressed by Muschamp, who admitted the freshman has made great strides of late.

“I think his role will continue to develop through the season. We’ll see how much as we move forward. He’s a natural runner, he has really good vision. He has to continue to do some of the other things you have to do at the position. But he’s a guy we’re excited about, no question.”

Muschamp highlighted Taylor’s development, saying, “It’s been night and day [since spring camp].”

Florida’s coach added, “No question, you continue to see the improvement. I kind of look at Matt Jones last year. He was a guy early in the year did some nice things for us, then he hit a little bit of a freshman lull. When I asked him last week in front of the whole team for the freshmen and the young players what was the difference in you playing more later in the year and being more productive. And he just laughed. He said, ‘I was able to stay awake in the meetings. I practiced better. I knew what to do at practice. I executed my assignments and gave the coaches confidence to play me.’ It was totally him. I just asked him. Like Matt in those situations, he says the exact same thing you want him to say.”

Muschamp stressed the importance of practice for younger players -- even exceptionally talented ones -- including a not-so-subtle jab at the previous regime at Florida.

“My point being to the young players was if you don’t know what to do and struggle to know your assignments and if you don’t give us confidence on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, you’ll never play. You’ve never seen them do it on that stage.  Some of the older players, I can deal with them busting an assignment on Tuesday because I’ve seen them do it on Saturday afternoon. Some of those young guys, I’ve never seen them do it before. I am young, but I’m old-fashioned. You will play like you practice, I do believe that. And you do have to practice here now. That’s part of the deal.” (emphasis mine)

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