Tim Skipper won’t tip his hand.
Florida’s running backs coach is excited about the team’s three-headed competition in the backfield, but Skipper maintains there’s no clear leader for the No. 1 job.
“It’s a real good competition,” Skipper said, referring to Miami natives Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett, as well as junior-college transfer Mark Thompson.
“We’ve got some of the young guys that are in their second year playing who didn’t play as much last year. Everyone is fighting to get on that field a little bit more, so it’s going good. I’m real excited about the future.”
Still, while Skipper has praised his stable of tailbacks, one sophomore has seemingly emerged from the pack.
Cronkrite, a standout at Westminster Christian, has received the majority of first-team reps in camp this spring, as the 5-11, 204-pounder has displayed a consistent combination of speed and power.
He takes to coaching and is obsessive about film study.
“I just listen. Everyday,” Cronkrite said. “It starts with the film and just applying that to the field.”
Cronkrite played sparingly as a freshman in 2015, carrying the ball just 44 times for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
But the former four-star recruit quickly showed his versatility (he played a little receiver in high school) and an ability to learn the pass playbook and pass protect.
“Jordan is an athlete. He can do a lot of things,” Skipper said, noting Cronkrite’s nifty 41-yard touchdown grab against South Carolina.
“He went over the top and caught that deep ball. He gives us something out of the backfield that the other guys don’t [in the passing game]. He can run good routes.”
Cronkrite also credited some of his development to a piece of sage advice from Florida’s starting tailback Kelvin Taylor last season.
“The first thing he told me on the practice field was, ‘Whatever you do, go hard but don’t fumble because you’ll be the most hated man [on campus].’”
Cronkrite happens to be battling for the starting job with his good buddy and roommate Jordan Scarlett.
After teasing electric potential in flashes last, Scarlett, also a sophomore, actually entered camp as the purported favorite.
“You look at Scarlett, he’s a bruising downhill runner you’ve got to wrap up in order to get him down,” Skipper said.
“He’s smart. He understands angles and things like that. Protections are good, all that type of stuff. He’s that big back you’re looking for.”
But consistency has been an issue for Scarlett early in his career.
After rushing for 96 yards against Georgia, the former blue chip prospect tallied just 16 yards the rest of the season and was suspended for Florida’s bowl game against Michigan.
“It definitely humbled me,” Scarlett said.
“It was a humbling experience, thinking I was going to come in here and play a lot. I learned a lot sitting and taking visual and mental reps on everything. I learned a lot from it.”
The staff has been impressed with Scarlett’s improved work ethic this offseason, but the former St. Thomas Aquinas star has been hampered by a hamstring injury throughout the spring.
Still, the 5-10, 215-pound back believes he still has every opportunity to become the starter, and he relishes competing for the job against his best friend.
“We love each other like brothers,” he said of Cronkrite.
“We just both say we got to eat, and we got to do what we got to do. Just let the field handle itself.”