GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Perhaps no one was happier about Florida’s hire of Ja’Juan Seider than Gators running back Jordan Scarlett.
He’s known his new position coach since 2012, back when he first started emerging as a South Florida prospect.
“He recruited me for a while,” Scarlett said. “Even when he was at Marshall, before West Virginia.”
Said Seider: “Jordan, I’ve been knowing him since the eighth grade, because he’s from an area that I heavily recruit.”
Scarlett was a top signee in Jim McElwain’s first class at UF, choosing the Gators over Florida State and Miami. The U.S. Army All-American maintained a good relationship with Seider throughout the recruiting process, which made for a pleasant reunion last month.
“He’s a pretty great dude,” Scarlett said of Seider. “When I got to finally find out he was my coach, it was a great thing to hear. … He was like, ‘I told you I was always coming for you.’
“It’s crazy how it worked out. My high school coach always told me never be mean to somebody, because you never know where you’ll end up.”
Scarlett had a breakout sophomore campaign in 2016, rushing for 889 yards, 6 touchdowns and averaging 5 yards per carry. He rushed for more than 90 yards in five of the final eight games, putting an end to Florida’s running-back-by-committee approach.
Seider wants to help Scarlett become just the 10th player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in one season.
“The first thing is trust. You’ve got to trust me, I’ve got to trust you,” Seider said. “We’re talking about some things already as they’re watching film. If we can press him a little bit better on this play, it might be the difference between — I told Jordan — it might be the difference of you having 1,000 yards instead of 800-something yards.
“When they understand what you’re saying from the beginning, and it makes to sense to them in their terms, that’s going to allow them to be a better football player. When you come in and guys respect you and they trust you, especially your older guys who already know you, it makes the transition easy for you.”
Seider is wasting no time in trying to improve Scarlett’s game. In the opening minutes of spring practice last week, Seider was all over him during position drills about minor details.
“Coach Seider, he’s trying to teach us that we need to be a student of the game more,” Scarlett said. “So far he’s been teaching me a lot at running back … as far as footwork, my vision or my initial step in being patient. You know, just the little things that help me work on being a better back.”