Running back depth even thinner after Brown injury
Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.
Here's the good news: Chris Rainey is having a tremendous spring.
Here's the bad: He's the last healthy true tailback still standing.
A position already thinned with Jeff Demps concentrating full-time on outdoor track has been decimated by injuries.
The latest tailback to fall is redshirt freshman Mack Brown, who sustained a broken fibula in his leg Friday and will undergo surgery Thursday. He is looking at three months of rehabilitation.
Brown joins junior Mike Gillislee on the inactive list, leaving Rainey as the only scholarship tailback to carry the load (and the rock) for the rest of the spring — and in the spring game.
“(Fullback/H-back) Trey Burton is working some there with Rainey. We've got some other guys (walk-ons) repping through,” UF coach Will Muschamp said after Tuesday's practice. “That's kind of where we are, and it's what we've got to work through. We're a little thin there.”
Gillislee sustained a stress fracture in his foot earlier in the spring and is not expected to return until summer workouts.
“We're holding him out right now,” Muschamp said. “He probably could work through it, but right now, we need to get him healthy.
“Those guys (Gillislee and Brown) needed reps, they needed spring, but that's what happened. We'll deal with it and move on.”
The position should look much different in the fall with the return of Brown, Gillislee and Demps, who will battle Rainey for the starting role at tailback.
Muschamp said he does not expect Demps to be significantly behind when two-a-days start in August because the senior has been attending meetings and going through walk-throughs throughout the spring.
“He's been in our building, working on football,” Muschamp said. “He's been in everything. He's been part of whatever we're trying to do. Mentally, he has an idea what we're going to ask him to do in the fall.
“After outdoor (track), our players will conduct seven-on-seven and team drills throughout the summer without coaches. He'll be involved in that. In August, he'll be competing for the starting job.”
Muschamp was asked if there was a chance Demps might forgo his senior season in football to concentrate on training for the 2012 Olympics.
“He's playing his senior year at Florida,” Muschamp said. “After that, that's his decision. He wants to be on the football team and play in the fall, and that's what he's going to do.”
While there is a little bit of a question mark hovering over the tailback position this spring, things are starting to become a little more clear at quarterback, where senior John Brantley seems to be establishing himself as the likely starter heading into the season.
Although Muschamp said he's not ready to officially declare a starter at quarterback, he made it clear Brantley is No. 1 right now.
“I think you know when it happens,” Muschamp said. “We'll continue working through that, but right now, John would be that guy based on where we are.
“I'm very pleased with how he's managing the football team and making plays down the field vertically. I've been very pleased with what he's been able to do. John has had a good spring. He's playing well right now.”
Muschamp said he's also pleased with the progress being made by the other two quarterbacks — redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and true freshman Jeff Driskel.
“Both of them have made some plays,” Muschamp said. “Jeff is a guy who should be getting ready for the prom right now. We all need to keep that in mind.
“But as far as ability, the athleticism, the arm talent, the mental capacity to learn and do things the right way, they're all there. It's his eighth college practice, and there's a lot going through his mind right now.
“Tyler has done some nice things as far as pocket movement and managing the football team some. There are some bright spots in both of those guys, and a bright future for both of those guys.”
Muschamp said numerous other players have started to emerge this spring.
Included in that group are Rainey, tight end Jordan Reed, wide receiver Quinton Dunbar, defensive tackle Dominique Easley, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, outside linebacker/defensive end Lerentee McCray, linebackers Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic, safety Matt Elam, cornerback Jeremy Brown, freshman punter Kyle Christy and the starting offensive line in general.
“We feel comfortable with where we are,” Muschamp said of the team overall. “We're pleased so far with retention on both sides of the ball and in special teams.”
NOTES: Muschamp said true sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball underwent a medical procedure Tuesday. Ball was hospitalized last month after a blood vessel in his brain burst. He is now back home in the Atlanta area. “He's going to be fine. We're working through that with him right now with him and his family. He's handled this as well as you could handle it. We're all praying for him and his family. The prognosis is very positive. We're not worried about his football future. We're worried with his overall health right now. Not even the least part of my mind is worried about his football future,” Muschamp said.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.