GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sophomore Jordan Scarlett was Florida’s most impressive running back by far in the season opener Saturday night, but that doesn’t mean anything has changed as far as the Gators’ committee approach at that position.
Scarlett’s 70 rushing yards against Massachusetts marked his second-highest single-game total and his 13 carries were a career-high as he averaged a solid 5.4 yards per attempt. He also had an eight-yard reception.
Meanwhile, junior college newcomer Mark Thompson rushed six times for 22 yards, sophomore Jordan Cronkrite carried it three times for five yards and added two catches for 13 yards, and promising true freshman Lamical Perine got just one carry for a loss of a yard.
Gators head coach Jim McElwain also praised Scarlett’s work on pass protection.
But, McElwain indicated, the distribution of carries had to do more with the UMass defense and what the Minutemen were opening up for the offense.
Despite his big game, Scarlett has not emerged as the lead back, he said.
“No, you know what happened, in some of the (run-pass options) those other guys would have got more runs, but they were giving you the stuff on the outside, which obviously we made some hay with,” he said. “So, you know, I think he’s doing a really good job, but so are those other kids. Cronkrite did some really good things as well. Mark obviously had a couple drops in the pass game, but at the same time, he’s a guy we’ve got to get the ball to a little bit.”
Aside from the big news that junior slot receiver Dre Massey is done for the season with a knee injury, McElwain updated a couple other injury situations.
Senior linebacker Daniel McMillian played most of the game despite sustaining a high ankle sprain. As with Massey, McElwain praised his toughness.
“A lot of guys would have said, ‘You know what, I think I’m good.’ And he wanted to play every down,” McElwain said. “I think that speaks for those two guys’ character, their want, and I think a little bit about this football team. There’s a certain hunger to play, and I think that’s really good from that standpoint.”
He did not offer any indication for whether McMillian would be out this week or for how long he might be sidelined.
“We’ll see. … He’s a tough guy,” he said.
Meanwhile, junior nickelback Duke Dawson should be good to go this week after leaving the game early Saturday night with an unspecified injury.
“He had a shoulder or chicken wing that was a little loose. According to the training report today, limited contact reps OK. Although we don’t contact on Mondays, I don’t know why the contact piece is there, but sounds like he’s OK,” McElwain said.
The Gators might also get junior wide receiver C.J. Worton back from a high-ankle sprain, but that will be determined as the week progresses.
Nussmeier on the field
After operating from the coaches’ box last season, Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was on the field for the game Saturday night.
“His working with the quarterbacks and really the whole offense kind of between series is something that he felt comfortable with. I thought it worked out pretty good,” McElwain said.
Under the radar performance
While McElwain said redshirt-junior linebacker Alex Anzalone “probably had the most production points” on the defensive side Saturday night, he felt the Gators’ defensive player of the game was redshirt-sophomore defensive lineman Khairi Clark.
“What he did to hold point, maintaining his gap control and not peek in a game like that where they were running the lead fullback and that kind of stuff, I thought he really, really played well for us defensively,” McElwain said.
On special teams, in addition to redshirt-sophomore kicker Eddy Pineiro and redshirt-junior punter Johnny Townsend, McElwain praised the play of senior Ahmad Fulwood on the coverage units.
Northern Colorado on tap for 2017
The Greeley Tribune in Colorado reported that Florida has signed a contract to pay Northern Colorado $625,000 to play in The Swamp in 2017.
The Gators’ other known non-conference games next year are the season-opener with Michigan at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, a mid-November tilt with UAB at home and the annual rivalry game with Florida State the final week of the regular season at home.
Ryan Young is a Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.