University of Florida

Florida Gators expect big things from running back Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson

Florida won’t be in full pads until later this week, but star linebacker Jarrad Davis is already licking his chops at a chance to meet bruising tailback Mark Thompson in the hole.

The Gators must replace 1,000-yard rusher Kelvin Taylor in the backfield, and Thompson stands as a potential successor.

The 6-2, 242-pounder was rated the No. 1 junior college tailback in the 2016 recruiting class, and Davis compared Thompson’s striking size and speed to reigning Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry.

“I like the way he carries himself. I like the way he works out,” Davis said of Thompson. “I feel like he’s going to be special. I’m really excited to see what he’s going to do. I’m ready to put the pads on so I can see what it’s going to be like me vs. him.”

Thompson rushed for 1,298 yards and 18 touchdowns at Dodge City Community College in Kansas last season, and he will compete for carries with Miami natives Jordan Scarlett (a St. Thomas Aquinas product) and Jordan Cronkrite (a standout at Westminster Christian).

Cronkite took reps with the first-team offense both Wednesday and Friday, but Thompson’s sheer size and agility have stood out during drills.

“That’s an SEC back right there,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “He looks the part. Now we’ll find out when we get pads on. I noticed when he was hitting a couple inside zones and cutbacks, the guy that was kind of coming down questioned [himself] a little bit. He could see a bigger body there.”

McElwain’s history suggests he prefers a single, bell-cow tailback, and Thompson could fit the bill.

Still, considering the team’s depth at the position, Florida’s coach isn’t making any early proclamations. McElwain also isn’t opposed to a collaborative effort come fall.

“Both Jordans, I thought you could tell the year they had has really helped them. There wasn’t hesitation in anything they were doing,” McElwain said. “We’ve got some bodies. Mark is a guy pushing the envelope there. Here’s the good thing, you see some guys competing everyday knowing that I don’t just have my spot.”

THIS AND THAT

▪ No. 1 junior college kicker Eddy Pineiro (ASA College in North Miami Beach) did not miss a field-goal attempt in practice late last week, drilling a 58-yarder to end the day.

▪ McElwain said early enrollee cornerback McArthur Burnett (Pahokee) has gained 17 pounds (up to 174 from 157) since January. “You’re talking about guys who are actually able to eat,” McElwain said, referring to the free training table for scholarship players. “Let’s call it the way it is. That’s one of the great things the NCAA did was allow these guys to have access to actual meals. For guys like that who aren’t used to getting consistent eating habits, it’s not hard to gain weight.”

▪ With Martez Ivey recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Royal Palm Beach product Fred Johnson is playing with the first-team at right tackle. The 6-6 sophomore recorded two starts in 2015, including UF’s blowout loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.

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