Early Entry Review: Daniels adjusting to life as a Florida football player

Challenges arise through strength and conditioning program

by Alyssa Britton-Harr

Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

Kahen “KD” Daniels initially committed to play for Florida back on April 10, 2023. Since then he’s followed through by signing with the Gators and enrolling at UF.

As an early enrollee, he has gone through spring practice and has been working with the team and the strength and conditioning coaches. Similar to many freshmen adjusting to college, he also has had to acclimate to the team while expanding his knowledge in the running back room.

“At first it was a rough start, but he gradually adapted to what the strength and conditioning put him through,” said Lawrence Hopkins, his trainer and mentor since high school. “He was like, ‘Pops they trying to kill me, this isn’t like West Point.’ That was definitely an eye-opener for him, but he has since adjusted and is excelling now.”

Along with the strength and conditioning program, a big part of acclimating to playing a sport at the collegiate level is adapting to the pace of the game. No matter how good a player is based on their recruiting ranking when taken out of their high school bubble where they may be the best player, adjustments will have to be made. Especially, competing in a realm of other high-level players.

“He’s adjusting relatively well, the only thing he says is different is that everybody is a lot faster and bigger but other than that it’s been the same,” Hopkins said. “He’s always trained in a manner to compete against the best of the best.”

As a running back Daniels has made some changes to help him improve his performance on the field. The strength and conditioning program and the spring workouts leading up to the spring game have helped him gain more confidence in his field performance. Where off the bat during spring practices there were many videos highlighting his power.

“He just says I’m not nowhere where I used to be, but far from where I need to be,” Hopkins said. “I don’t care about numbers pops, all I care about is this work.”

Daniel’s performance in the spring game showcased his development as a running back. At the annual Orange and Blue game, Daniels had his family’s support watching him from the stands as he played his first game in the Swamp.

“He was just excited for his family to see him on that big stage, that’s what made him happy and confident the most, it’s a lot of things he can work to get better so he can continue as they go into summer workouts,” Hopkins said. “And do what we always talk about bigger, faster, stronger, and getting one percent better each day.”

The strength and conditioning program has allowed Daniels to elevate his ability in the running back room. He has become leaner so his speed, vision, and finesse will be a big factor, Hopkins said. With the help of putting on more weight, he will be able to help punish those after him.

The Gators have a strong running back room, where if everyone finds themselves on the same readability and pace whosoever number is called on will bring immense success on the field.

“They have a really good room, but he feels like either him or Jadan [Baugh] has a chance to be able to contribute to the rotation,” Hopkins said. “They just have to be ready when their number is called.”

In each position room where many people think the guys are always competing, they in fact are pushing each other to become better where they can win as a team. This makes the guys in each room become close brothers and learn to rely on each other when out on the field, so that they will perform to the best of their ability. For Daniels, Jadan Baugh is one of his closest friends in the running back room.

“They both came in as early enrollees and have clicked since day one and they make each other better, and they cheer one another on,” Hopkins said. “Coach [Jabbar] Juluke has fostered a family-type atmosphere in his running back room.”

As an early enrollee the coaches are a huge factor and play a significant part in ensuring their players have all the resources available to them to help them succeed. All the coaches are pushing him to be the best he can be, they’re not going to let him be half cooked, Hopkins said.

While the coaches provide resources for improvement when it comes to making the active roster, each player must lock in and embrace fortitude. In the running back room, agility is an important step. It also takes admiration to understand your strong attributes and what needs to be improved.

“His biggest attribute is that he loves the game and is hungry for the knowledge, he always wants to get better,” Hopkins said. “He probably needs to put more of an emphasis on his balance and pass protection because you have to be able to protect that million-dollar man calling the plays.”

In the past four months he has become a better football player that’s what I’m so proud of, Hopkins said. For many young football players their dream is to play ball at the collegiate level, Daniels has now achieved that dream but is still itching for what is to come.

“He fell in love with the swamp during his visit last year in early spring,” Hopkins said. “He was like man this just feels like home being down here.” “He wants to be the next Emmitt Smith, Fred Taylor, or Earnest Graham.”

As he takes the next steps in his career there will be plenty of room for mistakes and learning curves, but with perseverance, Daniels wears his vision, ability to make someone miss, grit and determination greatly as some of his strong points as he continues his journey in the swamp, Hopkins said.

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  1. Good to hear that he is friends with Jadan Baugh. I thought maybe he would feel let down because how great Baugh did in the spring.

    Daniels is about 5th on the depth chart but could be 3rd next year.

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