The SEC has put itself on a pedestal as the best college football conference in the country thanks to seven straight BCS National Championships (and eight of the last 10). On top of that impressive streak, the conference has also boasted some the biggest breakout stars for freshman running backs in recent memory and that’s a trend they could continue in 2013 with Kelvin Taylor of the Florida Gators.
Just in the last three years, the SEC has showcased Marcus Lattimore of the South Carolina Gamecocks in 2010, Todd Gurley of the Georgia Bulldogs in 2011 and T.J. Yeldon of the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide last season. Each of them burst onto the college football scene as true freshmen and became instant stars. Their incredible talents outpaced their youth and made it impossible to keep them on the sidelines.
Taylor, the son of former Florida great Fred Taylor, could very easily become the next true freshmen to force his way onto the field next season. With the departure of Mike Gillislee, the Gators find themselves short on experienced backs so they will open up the search starting this spring. Sophomore Matt Jones and junior Mack Brown will be first in line because of their seniority, but Taylor could prove too special to bury on the depth chart for long.
The No. 1 running back prospect in the 2013 class, Taylor has all the tools to make an immediate impact at the next level. He possesses elite vision, elusiveness, instincts and attacks the line of scrimmage as a downhill back. There’s also a lot of confidence in the Florida program about his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and could quickly become an excellent blocker in pass protection (which he didn’t do much of in high school because he was carrying the ball so much). And because he enrolled early, he’ll be a full participant in spring practice.
Head coach Will Muschamp is still working on getting this offense rolling, and the running game is critical for the Gators to be successful. Quarterback Jeff Driskel is still an unproven commodity and the Florida offense leaned heavily on its running game and Gillislee in 2012, who amassed 1,100 yards on 244 carries as he chewed up yardage and kept opposing offenses on the sideline. That grinding style helped gloss over glaring weaknesses in a Florida offense that ranked No. 90 in yards per play and yards per pass attempt.
Now, Muschamp has to find his next grinder out of the backfield. If Taylor can live up to the hype this spring, he could step into the role and become the next great running back to emerge early in the SEC.