GAINESVILLE — Kelvin Taylor entered the University of Florida with high expectations.
The son of former NFL and Gators running back Fred Taylor, Kelvin Taylor graduated from Belle Glade Glades Day High as an All-American and the state’s all-time rushing leader with 12,121 yards to go with 191 touchdowns. By the time he was a junior, Taylor already had surpassed Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith’s record as the state’s all-time leading rusher.
Now, after two years of splitting carries with former Armwood High standout Matt Jones, who now plays in the NFL, Taylor, the most experienced back on UF’s roster, is ready to be the featured ball carrier for offensive-minded head coach Jim McElwain.
“My feeling on being the primary back is of me being a leader and going out there and playing fast,” said Taylor, who started against LSU and East Carolina last season. “I have expectations for myself and for my teammates.”
Taylor was second on the Gators in rushing last season with 565 yards and six touchdowns on 116 carries, including a career high 25 carries for 197 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia. Taylor averaged 4.9 yards per carry and led the team in rushing three times.
As a freshman, Taylor was selected to the All-SEC freshman team after finishing with 508 yards and four touchdowns.
Taylor impressed his new coach in the spring and McElwain is hoping it will carry into the season.
“I really liked what he did in the spring,” McElwain said. “Obviously, there’s going to be opportunities there. The way we play running backs, I’m not a believer in one guy carrying it 40 times. As much as I respect Bum Phillips, it’s not something I believe in. I think you have to develop the position.
“You’re going to need three guys at least to go through the year with. So what you hope to do is to find that guy that has the hot hand in the fourth quarter. He’s still fresh based on what you’ve done, and now let that guy kind of finish the game. That’s kind of how we like to do it.”
Showing no lack in confidence, Taylor expects to have the “hot hand” every game.
“At the end of the day, it’s about winning and helping your teammates win. I’m very comfortable with that, but nine times out of 10, I’m going to be making a lot of plays, so I won’t have to worry about that too much. I’m ready to help my teammates win. “
The challenge for Taylor, it seems, will be separating himself from other running backs on the roster, including senior Mark Herndon, who played in the first three games of 2014 before suffering a season-ending injury, and highly recruited freshmen Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett, both U.S. Army All-Americans.
“Obviously, it’s difficult to go through a season playing with just one back, so we’re going to need contributions from a couple of guys there,” offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. “Obviously, I have high hopes for Kelvin and obviously he had a good season last year and we want to see him build off that.
“(I’m) really looking forward to him having a good camp and having a big, big year for us.”
Taylor can help himself by contributing to the passing game. He caught only two passes last season, and both were for negative yards.
“Catching the ball a lot more out of the backfield,” Taylor said. “Catching the ball and getting more film on just catching the ball because I know I have good hands. And just getting better at really firming my game to be a very complete back at the blocking point and everything else will come in place.”