Instant excitement: UF’s freshmen on offense stepping out

Florida receiver Kadarius Toney slips past Tennessee defensive back Emmanuel Moseley for yardage after a reception during the first half Saturday at Florida Field. (AP Photo/John Raoux)


On an offense that has been in an almost desperate search for playmakers in recent years, two true freshmen have already started to emerge in that potential role this season for Florida.

But, as we saw in Saturday’s win over Tennessee, it’s likely going to take more time and playing experience before the full emergence occurs for tailback Malik Davis and wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

“(With) some of these young guys, (it’s about) expanding their roles as they continue to learn,” UF coach Jim McElwain said.

 Davis and Toney gave a glimpse of promising things to come in the Gators’ 26-20 win at The Swamp. At the same time, they made some mistakes that they can learn from.

Davis had what appeared to be a 74-yard touchdown run through the UT defense in the fourth quarter, but he was stripped just before breaking the plane and the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. He did not return to the game, but led the Gators in rushing with 94 yards on four carries.

Toney, a former dual-threat quarterback who made the move to wide receiver in August, made some things happen Saturday with his quick cutting ability and elusiveness with the ball in his hands. He caught four passes for 40 yards and rushed for five yards on one carry. He also dropped a potential touchdown pass. It would have been a tough catch, but he had his hands on the ball.

There are more learning experiences ahead for Davis and Toney this season. There also will be opportunities to make more plays.

Davis seems to bring the home-run threat that’s been missing in the running game.

“He brings a little juice, there’s no doubt,” McElwain said. “He’s a little bit different. He’s a slasher. He does a really good job of sticking his foot in the ground and running through inside arm tackles.

“And no one felt worse after the game than he did (because of his fumble), and yet he’ll learn from it. It’s good to have (his ability), especially where we’re at (with) that position.”

Davis likely will make more mistakes, but it’s a natural part of the process that talented young players go through.

“Malik, he’s a great running back, a freshman,” redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “You have little mistakes here and there, it’s part of the game. You know, quarterback’s going to throw interceptions, running backs might fumble here and there, you might get a holding call here and there. It’s part of the football game, it’s why you play.”

Toney certainly appears to have a passion for the game — and a propensity for breaking ankles with his lightning-quick cutting ability. He left several UT defensive backs sprawled on the turf after making moves on them.

UF linebacker David Reese said he’s not only seen that before, he’s experienced it.

 “Kadarius, he’s so shaky,” Reese said. “As you can see, he’s like a little joystick out there. He’s slippery, people slip and slide on the field. He brings excitement to the game. When he gets the ball it’s just a nail-biter every time.

“The first time I realized it, I’ll never forget it. We had a scrimmage and he caught a crosser and I didn’t think he saw me, so I’m coming with a full head of steam. He like stopped on a dime and ducked his head like he did in the game Saturday. Same move. That’s when he got me. I’m like, ‘OK this kid, he might be something special.’ ”

The fans would clearly like to see more Toney, and they likely will. But the coaches need to make sure they don’t put too much on him too soon, McElwain said.

“Yeah, I think in his case, learning a new position, you overload guys and then they paralyze themselves,” McElwain said. “So, we do it bit by bit. What’s helped him actually is playing the quarterback position, because understanding where all that comes from has been good for him; the technical aspect of it, because he’s never been able to see it. He’ll continue to learn. As he does that, that part keeps coming.”

It is a process that is going to take time, but it’s obvious the emergence of Toney and Davis has begun.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or Also check out Andreu’s blog at



  1. First thing Spur Dog taught was wrap the ball up, don’t carry it like a loaf of bread! Seems playmakers should already know this by learning how to handle the ball in spring and fall practice?
    What’s this not wanting to put to much on a player? It’s not like mistakes aren’t being made already. Since Mac been here, we hear the same ole thing thing each season pertaining to players workload. Offense will never change if you’re to scared to try something new. What’s to lose?

    • Agree on both. Cant say how many times Ive seen a fumble at the goal line for whatever reason! Especially when he knew he had players around him, should have moved it to his front rather than pumping it at his side one handed.
      Too much on Toney? what is he talking about, Toney has been doing this kind of running all his career as a QB! Give him the ball!

  2. At least the future for U.F. football is brighter than other schools (Ole Miss, Tenn., Nebraska, Texas A&M etc…). I totally get ”the offensive struggles” argument. But that awesome last play of the U.T game (Franks to Cleveland, both underclassmen) should be a springboard to more confidence for Florida football. And if Gator fans are completely honest, Coach Mac has had a very weird start to his U.F. coaching career. Losing Will Grier (to steroids), and now the debit card/fraud scandal, not exactly smooth sailing in his first ‘3’ years here in Hogtown.
    But to all the players that are doing ”the right thing”, keep on keeping on, and the rest will work itself out! Go Gators!

  3. A long lucky pass good they won but, the coaching of Mac and Nuss after three years come on at least Butch Jones shows some fire in his belly Mac is just stoic and make these comments about the player’s being too young no experience how are they going to get it in practice? they need to be in the game and get the experience heck Toney wasn’t even in the game long enough to make mistakes after every play even the one he was in they took him out what sense does that make, my opinion i know is justlike every one my opinion like noses everybody has one, but i’m sick of this coaching and comments that he makes be glad when he and Nuss is gone,Maybe after Kentucy beats them they will

  4. The Kentucky game will be critical to the overall success of the season. Seems weird to say that as we have beaten them..what..27 times in a row now? But they are a different animal this year and undefeated, and we’re not. The Gators need to bring their “A” game Saturday night in Lexington. The coaches also need to pull their collective heads out of that dark place where game-saving timeouts are not called and the HC repeatedly saying “that’s on me”. Yeah we know coach we saw it. That brain freeze is not what you’re making $4.5M for. Learn how to coach on game day and you won’t be saying that in the future. This team has enough problems executing plays without having to overcome dunderhead mistakes from their own coaches.