After weeks of injuries piling up on No. 10 Florida, coach Will Muschamp finally delivered some positive news, announcing sophomore tailback Matt Jones “should certainly” return for the Gators’ in-state showdown with Miami on Sep. 7.
Jones, sidelined recovering from a serious viral infection, will miss Saturday’s opener against Toledo, but Muschamp said UF's starting tailback is running, cutting and lifting weights again.
Jones is still not cleared to practice in pads, but offensive coordinator Brent Pease quipped that’s non-issue. When asked how many practices Jones might need to be ready for the Hurricanes, Pease said, “Zero.”
Mack Brown will make his first career start in Jones’ absence this weekend, but the redshirt junior is not expected to see feature-back like carries.
Mark Herndon, the former walk-on, and Valdez Showers, the recently converted safety, will also see reps in a tailback-by-committee approach. Pease said freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane may factor into the game plan, but maybe not.
Brown (5-11, 215 pounds), a physical, downhill tailback, was a heralded recruit out of King High (Lithonia, Ga.) in 2010, but his career has been derailed by injuries and inconsistencies.
While not exactly disgruntled, Brown admitted frustrations over his playing time before quickly saying he’s ready to move forward.
“The past three years have been kind of hard. Probably getting two carries every four games. It hurts, but I’m not looking at the past no more.”
Brown has just 40 career attempts and zero touchdowns. He credited his parents and pastor for helping him remain motivated, saying they constantly preached, “Your time is coming. When your time do come, you got to show out.”
Brown acknowledged he’ll be a tad nervous Saturday -- “I’m usually on the bench the whole game and probably get in the fourth quarter. Now you’re starting the game. You got a little bit of butterflies in your stomach.” – but is ready to run hard.
“I’ve been training hard for this opportunity,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton