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May 17, 2013
Early Entry Review: Taylor confident after first spring
A coach's description of incoming freshmen has become just as big of a college football cliche as treating every opponent the same and taking things one day at a time. Incoming freshmen are always talented - that's why they were recruited - but need some time to adjust to the speed of the college game.
So maybe you're not quite used to hearing a freshman describe his first semester on campus the way running back Kelvin Taylor has to his former high school coach.
"He really never had any stress about it," former Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Day coach Pete Walker said. "He actually called me one day during spring practice and said, 'Coach, you know how we talked about the speed of the game? I just don't feel it.' He felt like he was still hitting the holes the same and it didn't really bother him. I told him he got over a major hurdle being able to do that."
Similar confidence is what propelled Taylor to one of the more memorable high school careers in Florida history. Taylor ran for more than 12,000 yards and 192 touchdowns in five years of high school football. He was always the star, the must-have recruit who had colleges piling into a 2A school to catch a glimpse. His performances combined with his father - former Florida All-American running back Fred Taylor - made Gators fans particularly interested.
Given his past, it didn't come as much of a surprise that UF coach Will Muschamp did everything he could to bring the Taylor hype machine to a screeching halt during his first spring on campus. Muschamp told the public not to fall in love with a player who should have been a high school senior at the time.
Taylor did not make the post-spring two-deep depth chart. The No. 2 spot behind Matt Jones is listed as junior Mack Brown this offseason. Public perception will assume that, similar to 2012, Brown is just keeping the seat warm for another high-profile freshman. In a Florida offense that yearns for complete, workhorse running backs, Muschamp won't settle on Taylor until he feels he is a more complete product.
"Kelvin has done some nice things. He needs to continue to progress more than anything mentally with the offense," Muschamp said. "Physically, he's got some ability."
"He knows he's still got a lot to learn. We've talked about that," Walker said. "There's blitz pickups and the center changes the pass protections schemes at the line of scrimmage. He's got to be able to pick that up. That's the thing he needs to work on."
Still, the potential and playmaking ability can't be held down. Taylor was the closest thing to a show-stealer at an Orange and Blue Debut that was a glorified open practice. He rushed 11 times for 59 yards and showed the kind of cuts that sent the minds of Gators fans back to Fred in the mid-1990s.
Jones said afterward Taylor usually messes up a couple of plays during scrimmages but was "excellent" that particular afternoon. When Muschamp compares Taylor to Brown in the fall, it will be difficult to not reference that day, when Taylor seemed ahead of his more seasoned counterpart.
"I could tell that he was very confident after that," Walker said. "He was excited. He's a great team player, but he was excited that things went well for him. He felt like he really progressed."