GAINESVILLE -- Valdez Showers has gone from being buried at safety on Florida’s depth chart to offensive linchpin in just one game.
After eagerly switching to offense midway through training camp, the redshirt sophomore quickly illustrated why coach Will Muschamp is so high on Showers’ offensive prowess.
“He’s different than what we have [at tailback],” Muschamp said. “He’s a top-end speed guy.”
Florida force-fed the scatback early, as Showers took a gadget pitch 29 yards — a game-high run — to set up a Florida field goal, and also caught four balls for 23 yards.
The former high school running back said he’s excited about his positional change and ready to contribute consistently.
“I feel good. I’m comfortable,” Showers said. “Offense has always been easy to me.”
Freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor — son of Gator legend Fred Taylor — excited the crowd late in the fourth quarter with his first career carries.
The former five-star recruit gashed Toledo for 27 yards on his second carry, finishing the afternoon as UF’s second-leading rusher with 43 yards on five runs.
Meanwhile, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves played well in place of suspended defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy. The freshman collected his first career interception late in the third quarter.
“When we meet as a staff we talk about who are the guys we know we’re going to play regardless, and [Vernon] is one of those guys defensively,” Muschamp said. “There was no conversation about putting him in the game.”
Overall, nine true freshmen played.
FLAGS ALL AROUND
Florida ranked No. 114 nationally with 68.8 penalty yards per game last season.
Not much changed Saturday.
The Gators committed 10 penalties for 70 yards, including two holding penalties negating a possible touchdown drive.
“Disappointed with penalties,” Muschamp said. “We didn’t take guys out defensively because I was worried about their substitutions and their tempo, but the self-inflicted issues hurt us again [Saturday].”
Florida also was called offsides three times on third or fourth down, sustaining Toledo’s drives.
“It can’t happen,” linebacker Ronald Powell said. “We’ve got to eliminate it. We can’t be the best team defense we can be if we’re making dumb mistakes like that.”
THIS and THAT
Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries went down with a sprained MCL early in the fourth quarter, but Muschamp said the sophomore is “fine.” … Cornerback Marcus Roberson had several electric punt returns, including a 38-yarder that was nearly sprung for a touchdown. … Gators All-American punter Kyle Christy didn’t have his best game, averaging 38.2 yards on four kicks. … Wide receiver Latroy Pittman remains suspended for the next two games (Miami and Tennessee), but cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, defensive lineman Darious Cummings, linebacker Antonio Morrison and offensive tackle Quinteze Williams all will return to action against Miami. … Redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin went 1 of 2 on field goal attempts.