GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida has big shoes to fill at running back in 2016 with the early departure of Kelvin Taylor, the school’s second 1,000-yard rusher in 11 years.
Fortunately for the Gators, they have a pair of Jordans.
UF will be counting on the emergence of sophomores Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett. In addition to sharing a first name, both hail from South Florida, are former U.S. Army All-Americans and were once committed to Miami.
They also have their sights set on an SEC championship next season.
“Making it to Atlanta as a freshman, it was a great experience,” Scarlett said after the conference title game. “We had a great run, but losing put a chip on our shoulder. We’ll definitely be back.”
Sitting right next to Scarlett was Cronkrite, who played 11 games in 2015 and scored four total touchdowns.
“My freshman year, it taught me a lot,” Cronkrite said. “I got my feet wet in a few games. It gave me a thirst for next year and the years after that. I feel like we’re very capable of being successful.”
Cronkrite and Scarlett should have a much larger workload in Taylor’s absence, and they’ll compete for the starting job this spring along with junior college running back Mark Thompson.
“We’re definitely trying to take on bigger roles,” Cronkrite said of he and Scarlett. “That’s what we were brought here for. We want to be more of a factor in the offense, and that’s what we expect of ourselves.”
Florida running backs Tim Skipper said it took time for Cronkrite and Scarlett to get acclimated to the college game as freshmen, and they also dealt with “knick-knack” injuries and the flu bug during the season.
“Coming from high school to college, all the guys always think they’re ready to go,” Skipper said. “Then they get here and they’re like, ‘This is pretty organized.’ Every day is a fight, it’s 100 percent or you’re going to get exposed. … You put in the volume of this offense and all the things that we do, it’s a learning curve for them.
“Kind of typical freshman year type stuff. We’ve just got to keep battling, but I like what I see out of those guys. I think they’re finally coming into their groove now. I really do. You can see it in their eyes. I think you’ll see some good things from them in the future.”
Both backs showed flashes last season. Scarlett rushed for 96 yards on nine carries against Georgia, while Cronkrite had 73 yards of total offense and two scores at South Carolina.
Scarlett said Taylor taught him and Cronkrite how to be “students of the game” in the film room, and they’re ready to take the reins.
“Me and him definitely take pride in being the next guys up,” Scarlett said. “We work out together and we make each other better every day. So next season should be great with me and him in the backfield. We’re going to tear it up.”