Toney touches lead to exciting plays for Gators

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Florida receiver Kadarius Toney looks for running room Saturday against South Carolina at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent

Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney has become the wild card in Dan Mullen’s offense, and the first-year coach showed his hand once again Saturday.

Toney had 84 yards of total offense in the Gators’ 35-31 win over South Carolina, rushing for a season-high 51 yards on four carries and catching a pair of passes for 33 yards and a touchdown.  

This performance comes on the heels of Toney’s career-high 95 total yards against Missouri. And with his numbers against the Gamecocks, he has now surpassed his rushing and receiving stats for 2017.

“That comes from preparation and putting faith in Coach Mullen to get the ball in my hands whenever he can,” Toney said. “It feels good to execute the plays that he’s drawing up to help the team.”

Saturday was only Toney’s second time this season with four carries in a game, and he has only caught four passes once in 2018 (against Vanderbilt). Mullen acknowledged that he needs to do a better job of getting Toney more touches.

“When he touches the ball, really exciting things happen,” Mullen said of Toney after the game. “I haven’t done a good job offensively, in forcing us to just put the ball in his hands. About half the time he touches the ball the play doesn’t look anything like we designed it to look at in practice, but exciting things certainly happen. We’ll try to continue to do that and make sure he gets touches.”

Toney also took on punt return duties Saturday because of Freddie Swain’s injury. He muffed a punt in the third quarter and South Carolina recovered, scoring a field goal off the turnover. The Gamecocks had a touchdown drive on their next possession and went up 31-14 with less than 20 minutes left in the game.

“I always play with a chip on my shoulder and that just made the chip even bigger. So it just made me go harder,” Toney said of the muffed punt. “I was mad, but I didn’t let that overwhelm me. … My mentality is, if I do something bad, give me the ball again, I’m going to show you what I can really do.

“That was just an error. Everybody makes errors, but how you bounce back is really what makes a person and makes their character.”

Toney redeemed himself after South Carolina took a 17-point lead. The Gators drove into the red zone on the ensuing series and called his number on second-and-7. Toney caught a screen pass and evaded three defenders on his way to the end zone for an 18-yard score, his first receiving touchdown of the season.

That’s his favorite thing to do on offense.

“A screen play,” Toney said, “because I know I’m getting the ball for sure.”

He also touches it in the wildcat formation, but the former high school quarterback doesn’t care for that package.

“Nah, not really. It’s all right,” Toney said. “I moved away from quarterback, so it’s like going backward. … I can do that, but it’s not my main game. My main thing I do is receiving.”

Toney said he gets “a lot” of tweets from fans who want to see him play more wildcat and get reps at quarterback. The injury to backup quarterback Kyle Trask only led to more lobbying.

“That’s all I see on social media. I just ignore it,” Toney said. “But if Dan Mullen wants me to get in the wildcat more, I’ll get in there. … I know everybody just hesitates for me to get back in the shotgun. It’s kind of fun though, just to give the people what they want.”

Toney lined up in the wildcat three times Saturday and attempted a trick play on Florida’s go-ahead touchdown drive, but the Gators couldn’t execute it. However, he put the offense in scoring position on that series with his 33-yard run on a reverse.

“We lined up in the same formation … and right when they were trying to clutter the spot, we hit them on the other end,” Toney said. “I saw it developing, honestly, when we kept pounding and pounding. We got closer to the end zone and they threw like their whole team over there almost. I kind of figured it was going to come soon enough.”

Given his play the last two weeks, Toney’s role will likely expand to take advantage of his elusiveness and play-making ability. That excitement is needed for an offense trying to become fun again.  

“That’s a different type of guy,” running back Lamical Perine said of Toney. “They’ll have a run that’s supposed to go left and he’ll cut it back all the way to the right and score. So you never know what to expect with Kadarius. He’s a talented, good kid, man. He’s done a lot for this program and he’s going to keep doing that.”

42 COMMENTS

  1. Toney is electric when he has the ball. Mullen said it best that nobody knows where the play is going when he touches the ball. It is like all he sees is one color of jersey and he wants to avoid everyone. It’s hard to block for him. He is moving faster than everyone else and doesn’t want to wait for blockers.

    If they aren’t going pass it more out of the wildcat, I’d like to see more of Perine in the formation. He has a nice juke to get past the first defender plus the power.

  2. I am assuming that Mullen did not watch much of Toney’s play from last year’s film and watched him not run plays as planned in practice and decided not to play him much most of the season. Now, it appears, Mullen’s eyes have been opened as to why a coach does not put limitations on what Toney does during a called play and he is now sitting back and is just enjoying the many changes in direction that he performs on any given play call that involves Mr. Toney. And I just hope that many more of those play calls involve Mr. Toney in the game in lower Alabama in a couple of weeks. He is almost unstoppable when he is provided just a minimum amount of blocking on the edge. Give us more, please.

    • I’m with you Swampy (Tampa). Toney has moves reminiscent of Harvin, and now that he’s had an off-season of conditioning under Savage, he’s making tacklers pay the price when they get to him. I don’t want to see him as an every-down QB as some have called for, but it’s clear he makes things happen when he runs the ball. Btw, as a native of that region of FL, I can tell you it’s more effective to refer to it as “LA” , then clarify as Lower Alabama. Go Gators!

  3. Earlier in this season I criticized Florida’s staff for NOT utilizing K. Toney better, and more often. So here’s a ”tip of my hat” for using Toney much more creatively in the recent Carolina game. It can only get better from here for Florida’s offensive creativity, pray tell! Toney’s just too damn ”electric” to leave off of the ”let’s get creative list”, coaches! And in my opinion, get real creative for F.S.U., too! As some of the fans wanted to ”boo” in the Carolina game, well give ’em reasons to ”cheer”!!! Make the Gator fans say, ”damn, did you see that play Toney and the Gator ‘O’ did Saturday!?!?!” Chomp-Chomp! Go Gators!

  4. I am really starting to think Mullen gets it. He is different than the stubborn coaches Florida has had recently. You know the ones that stick to their strategy hoping that it suddenly starts to work. A coaches job is to maximize the development and talent of all their players for the benefit of the team. Toney is a conundrum. His talent is undeniable, but his unwillingness to stick to the called play must be maddening to coaches who are by nature control freaks. At least Mullen has learned that he has to give up control when it comes to the freelancer, Toney. Not too many coaches would understand that premise.

  5. Andrew: You said what Dan Mullen said. You know it’s on him. In my opinion, and I’m not making excuses for Kadarius, he has a long ways to go as a receiver. I mean, I know he has NFL aspirations. He’s got to finetune his route running and that kind of stuff. Isn’t it also on Dan Mullen to figure out ways to get him the ball? I say this, and I’m not being hostile to Dan Mullen at all, but why did it take eight games to figure out you could hand him the ball in the backfield? We didn’t see it until last week.

    • If it was just as easy as handing the ball off to playmakers and they would win games…well Taggart might be a good coach. Mullen will be coaching our Gators after Toney is long gone. He can’t stop running and coaching real plays to just hand off and see what happens. If he does that, well look at FSU this year for what happens.

          • And Mexi is right — he has a tendency to make it up as he goes along and not follow script, but hell, when the script isn’t working that’s a good thing isn’t it?

            I nominate Ready Kilowatt for your screen pic — Shiver and friends are putting everyone to shame lately!

  6. So since I cannot claim to be an expert – and only “experts” are allowed to have opinions -.would one of you experts explain to me why Toney should not run or fake the Jet Sweep on every play. Seems to be that would create havoc defensively. Toney has better cut moves than Harvin with almost the speed and burst. If Toney was targeted 15-20 times a game – the field would open up dramatically for the other receivers and running backs. Is this not a DUH????

  7. i am a huge toney fan. always have been. hed still be a qb if i was coaching. thankfully im not. all that having been said, when it comes to a controversy about how many times he should be touching the ball, to me, there is nothing to see here, move along. this isnt what your looking for.
    the reason is this is a player who needs to get the ball when needed. nothing more. not just injury risk, but overexposure will give too much film for opponents to study. maybe kentucky i might not be as adamant, but lets maximize his results not grind the guy. if he gets better at routine plays, ok, but i doubt he is the downfield blocker we need some plays, and i dont know if he is a better overall receiver for the base offense than jefferson or swain.
    also, he did have the drop of a punt, that could be why swain is the returner. small sample size, i know. also, there are only so many offensive plays in a game. there are other guys we need to get touches, even if they aren’t as exciting. the overall offense is priority.
    think of a major league baseball pitcher. he has to move your eyes up, and down, throw where the hitter is not at their best, not make any mistakes, change speeds, keep you guessing, and even have pitches that look like fastballs but are changeups. in the end, some pitchers are relief pitchers as their approach fits better to short durations. so toney is an incredibly good reliever, dont burn up his arm so to speak, particularly if the situation doesnt call for his talents.
    keep him happy, he is a great player imo, but unless he becomes qb, use him as needed and not any more than that.

    • From what he said in the article, it sounds like he prefers playing WR. For all we know, Mullen could’ve sat him down and asked him if he wanted to play QB and he said no. Last thing any sane coach would do is put a player at a position he has no desire to play. At this point, any fan who keeps calling for him to play QB, should probably put that idea to bed.

  8. Toney is a different breed of Gator.
    He has the talent, shimmy and speed to “create ” the optimum play that he sees opening up before him.
    If the original play design is not executed as drawn up, he can improvise it to open up maximum yardage.
    He is the embodiment of a trick play with the element of surprise rolled into it. Let’s find more opportunities and touches for Toney.