GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida running back Jordan Scarlett has sounded humbled from his time away from the program after his season-long suspension last year.
“I made a mistake and I’m just trying to work to be a better person,” he said earlier this spring in his first comments since being linked to the Gators’ credit card fraud scandal.
The lost season set back Scarlett’s pro prospects, as he felt it was in his best interest to return to Florida in 2018 rather than declare for the NFL draft as he likely would have otherwise.
In returning, he has a lot to prove this year. “Unfinished business,” as he calls it.
But in conveying that, Scarlett has mostly spoken in the context of the team — how he feels he let the team down last fall, what he feels he owes his teammates, how the team has plenty to prove collectively after that 4-7 finish in 2017.
So when he got back into the end zone Saturday in The Swamp during Florida’s Orange & Blue spring game, he didn’t want to celebrate alone.
“I told them let’s do something altogether, not really just celebrating by myself, so we just decided to get a little duck-duck-goose in,” he said of sharing the moment with his teammates.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 14, 2018
Scarlett has plenty of competition for carries in his return, but he’s looked like his old self this spring and capped it off with a strong showing Saturday. He actually found the end zone twice while totaling 57 yards on 10 carries, including a big 27-yard gain down the sideline that reminded fans of his 2016 season.
“It felt great. Just hearing the crowd roar as you run, it’s a great feeling to have,” he said. “I just want to think my O-line, they definitely made it possible.”
Center T.J. McCoy did indeed deliver a big block on linebacker Ventrell Miller to spring the hole for Scarlett, who later capped that drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. He’d add a short 1-yard touchdown run later.
Two seasons ago, Scarlett found the end zone 6 times while totaling 889 rushing yards on 5.0 yards per carry. That positioned him as a projected focal point for the Gators’ offense last fall and a good bet to top 1,000 yards, before his suspension wiped it all away.
The fan base has received him well in his return, though. Now it’s up to him to make the most of it.
Special thanks to all the fans who came to support at the O&B game pic.twitter.com/hW7TVFBI3g
— Jordan Scarlett (@ScarlettFever25) April 14, 2018
He comes back to a new offense and a new coaching staff, and as a fourth-year junior, Scarlett said he’s working to “become more of a student of the game” while taking nothing for granted and trying to master the responsibilities of a new offensive scheme.
“We used to do a lot more under-center runs, more pro-style stuff. Now it’s more spread. The defense is more spread out. We’ve got to kind of make one guy miss,” he said.
Scarlett did plenty of that in the fall of 2016, and he gave the fans in The Swamp a reminder Saturday that he intends to be that guy again.
Even if so much has changed since then, from the coaches to the offense to the depth within the running back room, where junior Lamical Perine is a seasoned veteran now, sophomore Adarius Lemons and freshmen Dameon Pierce and Iverson Clement are looking to earn playing time, and electric sophomore Malik Davis looms as a wild card while working his way back from a knee injury.
Scarlett was deferential to his teammates in speaking after the spring game, but he also showed Saturday he’s ready to be that same dynamic rusher fans remember.
That is, after all, why he’s back here for another fall in Gainesville.
“I think we have a lot of great running backs,” Scarlett said. “You know, all of us have different running styles. I feel like those coaches do a really good job of figuring out who can do what. So, I am trusting in their plan and they have a great plan for us.”