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The common perception heading into the 2004 season was that Florida had a two-headed monster at tailback in junior Ciatrick Fason and sophomore DeShawn Wynn, who had combined to rush for 1,158 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Sophomore Skyler Thornton and incoming freshman Markus Manson were relegated to the third and fourth units, the young guys who would provide depth.
Well don't look now, but both Thornton and Manson have been impressive in preseason camp and with Wynn sitting out Saturday's scrimmage while nursing a sore shoulder, Thornton was the second tailback on the field after Fason.
"It's been a real encouraging preseason," said Thornton, who rushed for 80 yards in eight carries in limited action as a true freshman last season, and also got action on the kickoff, punt return and kickoff return units.
"Last year I kind of got down on myself because I didn't do as well as I expected but it's been very encouraging. (Running backs) Coach (Locksley) kept my head up, I got into the playbook this spring and before we went to (preseason) camp and that helped me out a lot."
His rookie season proved to be a major adjustment for Thornton and now one year later, his comfort level is tremendously high.
"It's more like I'm up on the speed," he said. "As a freshman last year I wasn't quite used to the speed, but now when I'm in the game, everything slows down a bit, I see more stuff."
Thornton, who head coach Ron Zook said "ran well" during Saturday's scrimmage, is eager to get the season going, with the season opener now just two weeks away.
"I'm happy (two-a-days are over) because the season's coming right around the corner," Thornton said. "There's nothing like seeing this stadium filled and running through that tunnel.
"I think me, Ciatrick and DeShawn are going to be splitting time (at tailback). It's a team thing right now. We don't care who gets the ball as long as the team wins."
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