GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Prior to Florida’s first appearance in the SEC Championship Game in six years earlier this month, junior running Kelvin Taylor went shopping for a new suit.
Florida’s business trip to Atlanta didn’t turn out as the Gators hoped, losing to Alabama. Taylor is ready to get back to business one more time for the Gators in Friday’s Citrus Bowl against Michigan.
Taylor is foregoing his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft and needs 15 yards to join his father, former UF running back Fred Taylor, on Florida’s list of players to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
"I’m going to bring it,” Taylor told reporters Monday after Florida’s first practice in Orlando. "It’s going to be a great performance and it’s going to be a great effort. I’m going to go all-out."
After splitting carries with Matt Jones most of last season, Taylor took over as Florida’s primary ball carrier this season and produced five 100-yard games and 13 rushing touchdowns.
He consulted with his family after the SEC Championship Game and decided to leave school early and take his chances in the 2016 draft. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Taylor is projected as a mid-round pick.
"It was pretty much just the best fit for me and for my career going in the future," Taylor said. "I just feel like this is the perfect timing, and timing is everything."
Taylor is playing his final college game in the same bowl as his father. Fred Taylor rushed for a Citrus Bowl-record 234 yards rushing on 43 carries in the Gators’ 21-6 win over Penn State in the 1998 game in Orlando.
Kelvin relied heavily on his father’s advice before making the decision to pass on his senior season. Fred Taylor rushed for more than 11,000 yards in his NFL career.
"I leaned on my father a whole lot," Kelvin said. "Me, my mother, just my whole family. It was a family decision, but we’re comfortable with it."
The opportunity to play his final game for the Gators in the same bowl as his father adds a special moment for Taylor, a perfect way to end his three seasons with the Gators.
"It’s very cool, man,” he said. "It’s going to be a great experience. I’m going to be sad, but at the same time, I’m going to enjoy myself."
Taylor has rushed for 2,058 yard in his UF career, surpassing the 2,000-yard mark with a career-high 134 yards in the loss to Florida State. However, Taylor managed only eight yards in UF’s 29-15 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and Florida will likely need much more from Taylor to defeat the Wolverines.
"I expect KT to run hard as he always does,” teammate Jalen Tabor said.
NO SECOND THOUGHTS
Junior linebacker Jarrad Davis blossomed into one of the Gators’ best players this season. Davis said immediately after the SEC Championship Game that he planned to return to school for his senior season.
Nothing has changed.
While teammates Vernon Hargreaves III, Demarcus Robinson, Alex McCalister and Taylor are entering the draft, Davis is staying.
"It’s tough to see guys go, but we have a lot of talent on this team,” Davis said Monday. "When it’s their time, it’s their time. It’s something you have to understand."
Davis didn’t spend much time reflecting on his decision after Florida’s loss in Atlanta.
"I kind of switched gears and decided to focus heavily on this bowl game because this is the next thing that is up for me and my team,” he said. "The way things look right now, we could be great next year."
JOHNSON EARNS TRUST
Fifth-year senior Trip Thurman will have a new partner lined up to his right in the Citrus Bowl. Instead of Mason Halter at right tackle, true freshman Fred Johnson is expected to receive the bulk of playing time at the position in the Citrus Bowl.
After started 13 games in his only season at UF, Halter is unavailable for Friday’s matchup with Michigan. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Johnson has appeared in seven games and started one in his first season on campus.
"I’m very confident, especially with our communication up front,” Thurman said. "I have seen a lot of progress with him. With him getting some playing time throughout the season, it’s definitely helped him a lot."