NCF On The Trail: Kelvin Taylor

With such a talented group of players on one list, the Ultimate ESPN 300, it was difficult to narrow things to three favorites. After all, these are some of the best ever to play college football. With that being said, here are three of my favorites:

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesFew players have come off the edge like Jadeveon Clowney in his South Carolina heyday.
1. I've covered recruiting for several years, but watching defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (No. 1) go up against offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio at the 2011 Under Armour All-America game and practices was something I'll never forget. Clowney is the best athlete I have seen, and watching him go up against another five-star prospect was incredible.

Kouandjio more than held his own that week against the top player in the country, but there was no doubt Clowney was on another level. Clowney went on to have an incredible career at South Carolina, and who could forget the devastating hit he laid on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl?

2. Quarterback Tim Tebow (No. 2), with his unusual throwing mechanics and bruising style of play, had his doubters coming out of high school. Tebow, however, went on to have one of the most prolific careers in the history of college football by winning two national championships, two SEC championships and a Heisman Trophy.

To sum up Tebow's leadership ability and team-first mentality, I recall watching Tebow's high school team, Nease, play in the Florida state championship game against Armwood High School. Armwood had the ball and was driving for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown and a defensive lineman for Nease had to leave the game because of an injury. Tebow races out to the field and lines up at nose tackle. Though he didn't make the play, Nease won, and it displayed what kind of person he was. He was willing to do whatever it took to help his team win, and that's how he played throughout his college career.

3. Running back Derrick Henry's (No. 202) high school team, Yulee, didn't play in a very strong division in Florida, so the ridiculous stats (11,182 rushing yards and 153 rushing TDs) Henry put up in his high school career seemed to be somewhat inflated.

Henry's senior season, I had a chance to watch Yulee take on Belle Glade Glades Day School, which had Kelvin Taylor (No. 174), another five-star running back. I assumed that because of Henry's size (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) he would likely move to another position on the next level. But after watching him play in person and seeing how athletic and nimble he was, Henry convinced me he had the tools to be a top running back. Watching both running backs rush for more than 200 yards on the night and seeing two future stars at their brightest was one of the most memorable games I've ever had a chance to cover.

Florida fan's viewing guide to UA Game 

January, 2, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A year ago in the Under Armour All-America Game, Florida fans were treated to a satisfying showcase of their top two recruits -- cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and running back Kelvin Taylor.

Neither disappointed as a freshman this past fall. Hargreaves was named first-team All-SEC and Taylor showed promise after taking over as Florida's primary ball-carrier just before midseason.

After going 4-8 in 2013, Florida needs impact freshmen more than ever. Here's a look at what to watch for in Thursday's UA Game (4 p.m., ESPN, complete roster).

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN Watch List running back Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central) flipped his commitment from Clemson to Florida on Saturday after visiting the Gators for their annual spring game. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound running back left the spring game and said Florida was tied with Clemson for the lead, but after having lunch with his family, he decided to go ahead and make the switch.

"I flipped to Florida," Cook said. "I felt that Florida would be the best place for me to spend the next three or four years. It wasn't just a quick decision. Me and my family have thought about it. We came up last week and had a good experience then I came up this weekend and it was even better."

Cook said he enjoyed watching Florida's running backs during the spring scrimmage and feels like he could fit in with what they are doing offensively.

"Coach [Will Muschamp] told me they are going to give the back the ball and they really proved that," Cook said. "They gave the back the ball, they gave KT [Kelvin Taylor] the ball a lot. I liked that. I actually saw them get after it, It was great seeing that. Coach told me that they didn't have the type of back that I am and that I could come in and be that guy."

USC is another school that Cook has talked about potentially visiting, but now he said he's not so sure he will take that visit.

"Probably not," Cook said. "I'm pretty firm in my decision. I'm going to Florida."

For Florida, the Gators now have nine commits, including eight that are listed in the ESPN Watch List.

Five stories to watch: Miami NFTC 

March, 15, 2013
Here are five storylines for the Miami NFTC.

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Florida enters big day with holes filled

February, 4, 2013
Entering National Signing Day, Florida has the top recruiting class in the nation. The Gators have commitments from an FBS-leading 11 ESPN 150 recruits and are in the running for a number of other undecided players.

If Florida remains the top recruiting class after Wednesday, it will be the fourth time in the last eight seasons that Florida has signed a top-two recruiting class.

The previous three times, Florida played in a BCS bowl in the third season after signing its class (when the players were true juniors).

This year, Florida has signed a class with the potential to fill holes.

Florida stocked up on skill position players in its 2013 class with seven ESPN 300 recruits listed as ATH, WR or RB, including the top RB recruit in the nation, Kelvin Taylor.
Last season, the Gators ran on 65 percent of their plays in 2012, the ninth-highest percentage in FBS.

Florida improved its rush offense in 2012 but is losing its top running back, Mike Gillislee, who was Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004. The Gators might look immediately to Taylor to replace Gillislee and his hard-nosed style of running.

When the Gators attempted to pass, they rarely looked downfield. The Gators’ average pass traveled 6.6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, the fewest air yards per pass attempt in the SEC.

Part of Florida’s downfield struggles was a lack of wide receivers to stretch the field. The Gators’ best deep receiver was tight end , who declared for the draft. Reed had just three fewer receptions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer than all of Florida’s wide receivers combined.

To fill this gaping hole, Florida has commitments from three wide receivers ranked in the top 200 of the ESPN 300, including the No. 7 ranked wide receiver, Demarcus Robinson, who has the potential to stretch the field.

In addition to its group of skill position players, Florida has three defensive backs in the ESPN 150, including the No. 3 overall player in the rankings, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. The Gators are losing both of their starting safeties from one of the top secondaries in the nation.

Florida allowed its opponents to complete less than 16 percent of their passes thrown 20 yards or longer downfield and was the only defense that did not allow a touchdown on a pass of this distance.

The Gators’ 2013 recruiting class elicits thoughts of their previous top classes that included players such as Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Chris Rainey, Brandon Spikes, and Carlos Dunlap. Florida fans hope that the Gators can build upon a strong 2012 season and again translate their influx of talent into championships.

Signing day primer: Florida 

January, 23, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- There are just a couple of short weeks remaining until national signing day, and the Florida Gators have met a majority of their recruiting needs. With graduation, transfers and players leaving for the NFL draft, there are a few areas Florida head coach Will Muschamp would still like to shore up.

Key holes to fill

The Gators lost key personnel along the offensive line, wide receiver, linebacker, running back and secondary and are hoping to replenish their talent with junior college transfers and incoming freshmen.

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#UAGame practice: Day 4 notebook 

January, 3, 2013

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With just a player walk-through Thursday, things were relatively easy in Day 4 of practice at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports. A four-star defensive tackle gave further explanation about his decision to decommit from an SEC school, several players talked about who impressed them the most, and an ESPN 150 safety changed his decision date.

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UF recruiting shines, bad year or good 

November, 21, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- During the last 10 years or so, the Florida Gators have consistently ranked among teams with the top recruiting classes in the country -- and won two national championships, two SEC championships and played for another SEC championship.

This begs the question: Is Florida's success in recruiting a product of on-the-field success?

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Hargreaves, Taylor jump up in ESPN 150 

November, 7, 2012
With 20 verbal commitments, the Florida Gators continue to have one of the top recruiting classes in the country. In the updated ESPN 150/300 rankings, Florida has an impressive 13 players listed, including nine in the top 150.

Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida's only five-star commitment, continues to lead the way for Florida's No. 2-ranked class. Hargreaves, now the No. 3-ranked player in the country, jumped offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil in the latest update.

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Record-breaking RB Henry to announce 

September, 24, 2012
ESPN 150 athlete Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla./Yulee) set a Florida state single-game rushing record Friday when the 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior had 502 rushing yards. Yulee head coach Bobby Ramsay has seen Henry have big games before, but Friday's performance in a 45-28 victory over Jacksonville (Fla.) Andrew Jackson was one for the books.

"I was telling someone Saturday that there are a lot of variables that go into having that sort of a performance," Ramsay said. "For one thing the game has to be close enough for him to stay in. There have been situations where he could have probably run for 700 yards, but it wasn't worth the risk of injury.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Henry
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comDerrick Henry rushed for 502 yards, a Florida state record, on Sept. 21.
"And we played a good team. They flipped the field on us several times and that forced us to have long drives and give him plenty of opportunities to gain yardage. We needed the offensive line to be at their best and those guys also gave a quality performance Friday night. They did an excellent job. All in all it was a special night and Derrick is a special player. I'm happy for him; I'm happy that we as a team and a program and a community could share in this moment."

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RB Kelvin Taylor chases national record 

September, 18, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida running back commit Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glades, Fla./Glades Day) continues his assault on the rushing record books. Taylor surpassed NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith as the state's all-time leading rusher as a junior, and after a 218-yard and five-touchdown performance in a 49-34 victory over Clewiston (Fla.) Friday night, Taylor has his sights set on the national four-year record of 11,232 set by Ken Hall of Sugarland (Texas) from 1950-1953.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound back, who has started on varsity since his eighth-grade year, has totaled an astounding 10,256 rushing yards and 161 touchdowns in his career. He has already totaled 726 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in only three games in his senior season.

The ESPN 150 athlete committed to the Gators on Feb. 18, and the Under Armour All-American continues to be the No. 1-ranked running back in the country.

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Five-star RB chooses Florida 

February, 18, 2012
Florida's junior day got started with an early bang on Saturday, as the Gators secured a verbal commitment from five-star running back and Florida legacy Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glades, Fla./Glades Day).

Taylor, who surpassed Emmit Smith as the all-time leading rusher in the state of Florida this past season with 9,698 yards, said Florida is where he feels best.

"They just have a great program and great coaching staff. I feel so comfortable around their coaching staff," Taylor said. "It's closer to home and they have great tradition."

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Five-star RB closing in on decision 

February, 9, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Five-star 2013 running back prospect Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Day) appears to be closing in on a college decision.

Taylor announced on Twitter that he would be making a decision next weekend.

Taylor, whose Twitter handle is @ImKelvinTaylor, tweeted, "I will tell the world next weekend where I will be taken my talents Too #Staytuned."

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Class of 2013 ESPNU 150 Watch List running back Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Day), son of former NFL great Fred Taylor, will either roll with the Crimson Tide or play in the Swamp for the Gators, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Despite the early focus in his recruitment, Taylor is expected to wait to announce his decision at an All-America Game in January 2013.

“My Mom and Dad, they just told me to choose the best school for me. That’s it,” Taylor said. “My Mom, she cares about my grades ... but both [of his parents] said I should pick the school that makes me feel like I’m home.”

Taylor is on pace to graduate as the all-time leading rusher in Florida high school history.

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