Notebook: UF's new look at running back


Senior Omarius Hines is making the switch to running back this spring after spending time at wide receiver and tight end during his UF career.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 8:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 8:08 p.m.

When the Florida offense takes the field Wednesday for the start of spring football, it will have a new look at the running back position.

With the short and speedy duo of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey now gone, the Gators have nothing but size and strength in their backfield.

“We'll have some changes, number one, because of personnel,” UF coach Will Muschamp said at Tuesday's press conference. “We're a little different at the running back position than we were a year ago.”

Taking over at tailback will be senior Mike Gillislee and sophomore Mack Brown. Both players are listed at 5-foot-11 and more than 200 pounds. The average height and weight of Demps and Rainey was 5-foot-8, 182 pounds.

“Obviously our running game may change,” Muschamp said, “because of the size of our backs. I think last year we were more of a stretch perimeter running team. … So certainly inside zone and the power game (will be utilized), and whether it's one back or two back, and more downhill running.”

After experimenting at tight end last season, Omarius Hines is making the switch to running back. Muschamp hopes it leads to more production from the senior.

“He's an explosive athlete,” Muschamp said of Hines, who may still be involved in the receiving game. “We need to get more out of him as a football player, and that's including on special teams and everything we do within the organization.”

At 6-foot-2, 223 pounds, Hines has the physical makeup to become the big, bruising back Muschamp wants. He has 164 rushing yards on 13 carries (12.6 average) in his UF career.

“Omarius came to us,” Muschamp said of the position change. “We said, ‘let's take a look at this thing and see what we can do.' We've got to be able to generate some things downhill and be able to push the pile. But again, Omarius is a very explosive guy and a guy that we need to get more out of.”

Senior Nick Alajajian has also changed positions, moving from offensive guard to nose tackle.

Leonard still suspended

A.C. Leonard was one of the spectators at Pro Day, and he'll have to continue watching from the sidelines.

The sophomore tight end is still suspended indefinitely and was not listed on the spring depth chart. However, he's been given an opportunity to rejoin the team.

“He's working through some measures to work his way back as far as being a part of our team again,” Muschamp said.

Leonard was arrested on Feb. 15 after an argument with his girlfriend allegedly escalated into a physical altercation. His attorney, Huntley Johnson, entered a written plea of not guilty on Feb. 20 for a misdemeanor simple domestic battery charge.

“It's not a right to be a part of our team. It's a privilege, and you've got to act a certain way,” Muschamp said. “I've got zero timetable, and no decision will be made on fall for a while. This is a day‑to‑day, week‑to‑week operation for me.”

Wilson granted sixth year

The NCAA has granted offensive lineman James Wilson a sixth year of eligibility, and he is slotted as the starting left guard entering spring practice.

Wilson, whose injury-plagued career has consisted of four knee surgeries and two broken feet, has six starts in only 38 games played. But at 327 pounds, Muschamp said the former five-star recruit can provide some power on the line of scrimmage.

“He really played well for us as the year rolled along,” Muschamp said. “(He) is a physical guy, a guy that's got a little more girth and can get some movement.”

Nine out for spring

The Gators are without nine players this spring, but all are expected to be at full strength come August.

Sitting out practice will be linebacker Neiron Ball (vascular condition), Jeremy Brown (knee), defensive tackle Dominique Easley (ACL), defensive end Kedric Johnson (shoulder), linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder), cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck), and guards Cole Gilliam (shoulder), Tommy Jordan (shoulder),and guard Ian Silberman, who had shoulder surgery last week.

Ball and Roberson have been cleared for physical activity and will participate in some capacity, such as walk‑throughs.

Number changes

There are seven players sporting new numbers in 2012. Hines is now No. 20, linebacker Jon Bostic and receiver Quinton Dunbar will be wearing No. 1, quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett (No. 12) and Jeff Driskel (No. 6) have switched to their numbers from high school, and safeties Josh Evans (No. 9) and Valdez Showers (No. 10) have also made a change.

Here are the numbers assigned to the six early enrollees: CB Willie Bailey (No. 27), OG Jessamen Dunker (No. 74), OT D.J. Humphries (No. 70), DT Damien Jacobs (No. 4), LB Antonio Morrison (No. 12), WR Latroy Pittman (No. 13).

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