- Jeff Barlis, College Football
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Kelvin Taylor arrived at Florida last year with all the fanfare one would expect of an elite recruit who also happened to be the son of a school legend.
He didn't really factor into Florida's running game, however, until an injury ended the season of starter Matt Jones in Week 6.
It must have felt like an eternity for Taylor, who had been his team's focal point since he was an eighth-grader.
"I wasn't really discouraged," he said. "I was just like, 'Wow, Mack Brown and Matt Jones are out there.' I was just cheering those guys on and learning, trying to get better every day in practice, just trying to do something to impress the coach to put me out there. ...
"I just sat back and watched film, did things like that, took coaching and tried to get better every day."
When he got his chance, Taylor lived up to the hype. He showed that he was ready and was indeed as talented as his famous father, Fred Taylor.
Kelvin Taylor started four of the last five games, finished the season with 508 yards on 111 carries (4.6 yards per carry), and was named to the SEC's All-Freshman Team.
Florida coach Will Muschamp knew he had a special talent in Taylor, but the freshman's behavior when he wasn't playing made an ever bigger impression.
"Very humble, just a hard-working guy," Muschamp said. "He never said a whole lot. Kelvin’s a team guy. He’s been raised right. He’s a really good young man. He’s all about the team. He’s all about the University of Florida. He knew there were some things in protection he needed to clean up moving forward. There was nothing that he wasn’t willing to work at and didn’t recognize.
"With good players, that’s normally the deal. They realize there’s things they need to work on, there’s things they need to improve on and that’s why he is a good player. He’s talented, but he realizes the things he needs to do."
With Jones still recovering from a torn meniscus, Taylor has been the lead dog in a stable of running backs.
"We've got a lot of great running backs in there," he said. "Me, Mack Brown, Mark [Herndon], Matt Jones, [Adam] Lane, all those guys, Brandon Powell, the freshman that just came in. I think all those guys will help us."
Taylor has worked hard to take the starting job and hold off his competition. A year after enrolling early and participating in his first spring practices, he has the look of a confident sophomore poised to take the next step.
"I feel like I got stronger and a whole lot faster working with Coach [Jeff] Dillman," he said. "All those guys pushing me everyday, working me harder. My lower body got a lot more powerful. ... Now I got a year underneath my belt, so I'm practicing well, playing faster, more used to the speed of the game."
Taylor's teammates, especially his backfield mates, say they can tell. They're expecting big things this fall.
"He's not really worrying or thinking too much," senior fullback Hunter Joyer said. "He's just going out, playing full speed."
It's helped that the entire offense has made a smooth transition to a new no-huddle, spread scheme that operates almost exclusively out of the shotgun formation.
"This offense is a little different for these guys in how they're getting the ball," Muschamp said. "We still run the counter. We still run the power. We still run the inside run. We still run the stretch. But their angles to the line of scrimmage are a little different, and I think they've all adjusted very well."
Even with just a couple of weeks of hands-on experience, Taylor and the rest of Florida's playmakers are loving the new offense. They're getting used to a much faster tempo and are thrilled to get the ball in open space.
That kind of success has bred confidence and even led to a bold prediction or two.
"This year we're going to bounce back," Taylor said. "We're going to have a great season. We're just ready. We can't wait till the first game of the season just to show the nation what we're working with this year."
3dSam Khan Jr.