AlligatorSports continues its 2014 Florida football position breakdown by turning its attention to the running backs.
Florida enters the 2014 season with one of the deepest running-back corps in the Southeastern Conference.
The group is led by sophomore Kelvin Taylor. Taylor, the son of former Gator and NFL great tailback Fred Taylor, had a breakout season in 2013. He racked up 508 yards and four touchdowns.
His best games came against Missouri, where he averaged six yards per carry, and South Carolina, rushing for 96 yards and adding the Gators’ only two touchdowns of the game. He was voted on the Freshman All-SEC team by the league’s coaches following the season. With a year of experience under his belt, expect Taylor to carry the bulk of the rushing load for 2014.
Redshirt senior Mack Brown returns after leading the team in rushing yards (543) at the end of last season. Brown exceled in last year’s opener against Toledo, gaining 112 yards on the ground and adding two touchdowns, but he wasn’t able to rush for more than 100 yards in a game after that point. His next best game came against Tennessee, where he had 86 yards and a touchdown.
Brown and Taylor aren’t the only returning starters for Florida’s running game.
Junior Matt Jones is fully healthy after he suffered an MCL tear during the LSU game on Oct. 12, which sidelined him for the remainder of the 2013 season. Jones wasn’t full-go for most of the season before his injury either.
He had a mysterious viral infection that kept him off the field for part of fall camp, and he didn’t play until the Miami game on Sept. 7. He had a rusty performance of just 47 yards on 18 carries in Coral Gables.
He looked back to his normal self against Kentucky, running for 176 yards and a touchdown. That was only two weeks before his injury against LSU. Having been cleared since May 1, Jones will see a healthy fall camp for the first time since his true freshman season in 2012.
Redshirt freshman Adam Lane had a surprisingly decent spring, gaining 64 yards on 12 carries in the Orange and Blue Debut. Because three veterans are in front of Lane on the depth chart, he might not see much action during the season. But he can give quality reps if absolutely necessary.
Early enrollee running back Brandon Powell could also see some reps if he has some impressive plays in fall camp. Powell did not participate in spring practice due to a foot injury he suffered while still in high school.
He had surgery on the foot shortly after he arrived on campus in the spring. He will likely redshirt given the depth Florida has at running back, but Powell certainly has the talent to see playing time if he impresses early in fall camp.
This group of running backs is the deepest Will Muschamp has had in his four years in Gainesville. With his ground-and-pound philosophy and Kurt Roper calling the plays this fall, the Gators could surprisingly be one of the most productive rushing offenses in the conference.
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Kelvin Taylor (21) makes a cut while running the ball during Florida’s 23-20 loss to Georgia on Nov. 2 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. The UF running back ran for 508 yards and four touchdowns in 2013.