Kelvin Taylor has struggled to see the field during his sophomore season.
The son of former Gators tailback Fred Taylor has become a constant source of fan frustration and question embattled Florida coach Will Muschamp.
Why can’t a former five-star prospect get carries on an offense plagued by a lack of explosive plays?
Taylor started Saturday’s loss to LSU in place of injured running back Matt Jones but remained in the staff’s doghouse following another blown assignment in pass protection.
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Taylor registered two carries for zero yards, before whiffing on a third-down blitz-pickup and benched.
“Kelvin has do a better job of recognizing the Sam [linebacker] is coming and get over there faster and manage that,” offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said. “We feel like we had a chance to convert a third down right there.”
Florida’s coaches have guarded Taylor from criticism in recent weeks, but Muschamp finally acknowledged the sophomore’s lack of playing time after another pivotal mistake, saying, “It’s not just about carrying the ball; there’s protection and there’s a lot of things that go involved with being a running back. … It’s a long season, and [he has] to continue to progress in what we’re doing. [He’s] a very talented runner.”
Taylor, who has just 12 yards on nine touches the last three weeks, might be further buried on the depth chart.
Jones, who missed most of the LSU game with an ankle injury, practiced Monday and said he’s ready carry the load against Missouri (7 p.m., ESPN2).
“I feel good about my health,” said the junior, who’s averaging 18 carries for 93 yards in four starts this season.
“I practiced yesterday, came in with no swelling. No swelling in the knee, no swelling in the ankle. I feel great about this weekend.”
Meanwhile, after Taylor watched from the sidelines, true freshman Brandon Powell, a star at Deerfield Beach, saw extensive playing time and emerged as a natural complement to Jones. The powerful but diminutive scat-back (5-9, 177) tallied six receptions for 66 yards and added three carries, including the controversial first-and-goal run at the 2-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
“He's a talented back,” Jones said.
“Brandon reminds me of me sometimes because he plays as big as me and he has a lot of heart. I love the way he catches the ball.”
Powell, in just his second collegiate game, also held up well in pass protection.
“I thought Brandon made a lot of plays as the game went on,” Roper said. “We had a protection issue early in the game, and in those situations, it just affects the thought process through the game.”
Roper hopes to get Taylor more involved moving forward, but Florida’s offensive coordinator wouldn’t commit to a defined role.
“He is really good with the ball in his hands,” Roper said. “He’s a guy that when you hand it to him does a good job. But you have to manage the rest of the package.”