In 2015, Gator senior tailback Kelvin Taylor carried the ball 259 times for a total of 1,035 yards. Taylor’s versatility as an offensive weapon was obvious, he earned over 58 percent of Florida’s rushing yards while accounting for one out every two rushing attempts.
So how does a team replace that type of production?
According to Florida junior RB Mark Thompson, the next guy in line has to step up, and he says the best running back is going to play. Thompson, a first year transfer from Dodge City Community College, says he’s set a personal goal to reach 1,000 rushing yards before the Week 8 bye. However, he stressed the team’s mission of simply winning each week en route to a national championship.
In order to reach a national title this season, Florida will need to find a balance between four potential backs: Mark Thompson, Mark Herndon, Jordan Scarlett, and Jordan Cronkrite.
Entering his senior year, Gators RB Mark Herndon is looking to make the most of his final opportunity. Herndon says this season is his best chance to earn meaningful playing time, and he must be a leader for the younger running backs.
"You're too short, too small, not strong enough, you don't compare" let em talk! All you need is God, your Heart, and hard work!
— Mark Herndon (@MHerndon37) August 2, 2016
Herndon has played for the Orange and Blue since 2012, earning his role as a special teams gunner while shuffling around in Florida’s talented backfield. Herndon says his biggest improvement since last season came in the weight room, adding size while still maintaining his explosiveness and speed.
Despite losing starting offensive guard Antonio Riles to a season-ending ACL tear, Herndon says he is “very confident” in the offensive line—stating that veteran experience will improve Florida’s production this season. In order to earn a spot in the Gators’ running back rotation, Herndon will need to rely on his own experience as the most-seasoned tailback.
It remains unseen if Florida’s backfield will employ a primary workhorse or a committee of ball-carriers. Either way, Gators RB Jordan Cronkrite says the competition among running backs pushes them to perform at a higher level.
Florida is expected to practice again Friday.