The Kelvin Taylor Dilemma.
Florida’s five-star freshman tailback -- one of the most ballyhooed running back recruits in Florida history and the state’s all-time leading rusher -- has just one more carry than his retired dad, Fred, since Florida’s season opener.
Against Toledo on Aug. 31, Taylor carried the ball five times for 43 yards on Florida’s final possession in a 24-6 victory. The Swamp went bananas. The Gator Nation was positive the brief cameo was merely a tease of the future.
Perhaps it will be, but maybe the distant future.
Taylor has tallied just a single carry in Florida’s last three games -- a ho-hum three-yard run against Tennessee. As I joked in the UF-UT retro diary, the crowd roared in adulation for the most mundane of plays. Gators fans love them some Kelvin Taylor -- perhaps irrationally so right now.
Taylor’s path to the present has been well documented.
An early enrollee in January, Taylor had an excellent spring camp, before hitting the proverbial freshman wall in August. He struggled through a frustrating training camp, plagued by issues with ball security, pass protection and playbook knowledge.
When the 2013 season kicked off, Taylor was buried on the depth chart behind Matt Jones, Mack Brown, Mr. Red Herring Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers.
But then the Toledo performance happened -- albeit versus an undersized and gassed front -- and Taylor’s role seemed to be reevaluated.
Following his strong debut Muschamp said the following about his freshman tailback:
“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 also highlighted Taylor’s development, saying, “It’s been night and day [since spring camp].”
Miami: 0 carries. Tennessee: one rush. Kentucky: 0 carries.
And yet, the praise for Taylor continues.
UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease -- before the Tennessee game -- “Kelvin has done a lot better in practice. He’s hitting that flow like Matt [Jones] did last year when Matt started showing up and doing good things in practice and he started taking off. Kelvin is starting to hit that.”
Pease -- after the Kentucky game -- “He’s still in the mix. We want to get him in there. I think coach [Brian] White has a good feel on how he controls those guys and how the game flow is going and where we’ve got to pick our spots. It’s hard with one ball, three players. They’re all capable. They’re all very good. A couple of them have experience. We spot guys in certain packages to use at certain times. We’ve got to continue. The good thing about it is they’ve all been very unselfish and they’ve all grown and continued to practice real well.”
Hollow words? Classic coach speak? When asked if Taylor was once again a redshirt candidate, Pease emphatically stated: “No.”
But the “one ball, three players” thing gets extra tricky when you include Valdez Showers -- who returns Saturday against Arkansas after missing Florida’s previous two games -- into the mix as well.
Before Jones’ exposition against Kentucky (career-high 176 yards and touchdown), Muschamp stated repeatedly the Gators would go with a “hot hand” approach at tailback.
Loosely translated: If not Jones then Mack Brown.
Taylor’s preseason fumblitis was certainly a cause for concern -- especially coupled with Jones’ own early season ball security issues -- but there’s been no indication Taylor is still struggling in practice. It appears, he's simply not ready to play in the SEC.
Said Jones: “He has a great work ethic. Sometimes when you don’t get in as a freshman it is kind of hard of you coming from high school, like I was last year. I was kind of the same way, like why wasn’t I getting in. But sometimes, you’re not ready for the SEC or whatever. I think he’s ready. It’s not my decision. But his demeanor is great in practice.”
Jones does know what Taylor feels like, but I’m not sure his freshman season is a comparable litmus test. In 2012, UF’s staff practically begged Jones to topple Brown for the backup job. Ultimately, he did.
This year, Taylor is in no position to leapfrog Jones or Brown. And now this week, he’s again battling Showers for third-string reps.
To redshirt or not to redshirt?
Most signs point to one direction.
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