ORLANDO — Kelvin Taylor’s Florida career had its share of ups-and-downs.

His first two seasons were filled with both inconsistencies and highlights — including a 197-yard rushing performance against Georgia in 2014 — but Taylor’s lowest moment of his career came, oddly enough, after a touchdown.

The junior running back made a throat-slashing gesture after scoring in the Gators’ 31-24 win against East Carolina this season and was berated on the sidelines by coach Jim McElwain.

But Taylor learned from that lesson and displayed the type of maturity that is expected from a team leader.

He went on to record the best year from a Florida running back since the 2012 season.

In Florida’s 41-7 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, Taylor became the first UF running back to rush for at least 1,000 yards since Mike Gillislee.

The Belle Glade native reached the mark on a 7-yard carry in the second quarter, and ended his junior season with 1,035 rushing yards to go with 13 touchdowns.

While his team didn’t have a good performance, McElwain gave credit to Taylor for reaching his personal milestone.

"That’s a good deal," McElwain said. "It’s a credit to these guys up front and, obviously, his perseverance in continuing to get a little bit better."

Added Taylor: "That definitely was a goal of mine. My offensive line, those guys helped me out with that goal and did a great job for me," Taylor said after the game.

"(I’m) very thankful and blessed for great coaches and just great teammates."

Taylor finished his college career with 2,108 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns and ultimately declared for the 2016 NFL Draft before UF's game against the Wolverines.

After the game, Taylor was asked about the highlight he was most proud of during his time at Florida.

"Smashing Georgia every year, killing those guys," Taylor said.

Taylor’s departure leaves a huge void at running back for the Gators. His backups — Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett — are two talented, but unproven players.

Cronkrite played in 13 games and rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 89 receiving yards and one touchdown.

Scarlett, on the other hand, saw his struggles on and off the field in his first season in Gainesville, playing in just nine games.

Scarlett was in McElwain’s doghouse on a number of occasions, as he struggled with practice habits that culminated in him not playing four straight games — Kentucky, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Missouri.

The Miami native broke out against Georgia when he rushed for 96 yards on nine carries. But his season ended prematurely when he was suspended for the Citrus Bowl after being cited for marijuana.

JUCO running back Mark Thompson — the No. 1 junior college running back in the 2016 class according to 247Sports — might have a chance to steal carries from Cronkrite and Scarlett when spring practice starts.

But replacing Taylor’s production won’t be an easy task for those three.

Taylor was able to improve dramatically in his only season under McElwain after two inconsistent seasons under Will Muschamp.

And even though 2015 was his best season at Florida, Taylor won’t stop working to get better as he enters the NFL.

"It’s been a wonderful three years. It felt like it went by fast. Felt like I just stepped in the All-American game coming up for school," Taylor said. "But at the same time, you gotta embrace the moment and be thankful for everything.

"I just know that I still have more to do, though. A whole lot more to go and I’m excited."

Follow Luis Torres on Twitter @LFTorresIII

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