FLORIDA FOOTBALL

Notebook: Jones, Brown ready to step forward


Florida running back Mike Gillislee speaks during a news conference Sunday for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Florida will play Louisville on Wednesday night.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 7:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 7:32 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Senior Florida tailback Mike Gillislee has had a special season, becoming the first Gator since 2004 to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing. But as good as he's been, Gillislee said the UF offense won't really miss him next season.

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Florida running back Mike Gillislee speaks during a news conference Sunday for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Florida will play Louisville on Wednesday night.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

He said his two backups — true freshman Matt Jones and sophomore Mack Brown — are just as good as he is.

“Those two are great backs,” Gillislee said Sunday. “I feel like me leaving, they're not losing nothing at that position. Those two are are just as good as me.

“Both of them are humble guys. Both of them go out every day and get better. Both are competing every day.”

Both, apparently, have gotten better during bowl preparation over the past two-plus weeks.

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Jones and Brown have gotten extra reps in practice and he's hoping to get them carries in Wednesday's Sugar Bowl.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel said he's got a lot of confidence in Jones and Brown.

“They're both good players,” Driskel said. “They both can make anybody miss and they both run very hard. I think in bowl practice they've done a lot better in pass protection, which is key at the running back position. They've improved a lot.

“I expect them to get some touches and when they get them I expect them to make them count.”

Driskel on Brissett

Driskel said Sunday he hopes No. 2 quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a close friend, stays at Florida. There is much speculation that Brissett will move on to another school now that Driskel is the clear starter — for now and the foreseeable future.

“He's handled it the best way he could,” Driskel said. “He's a good friend and a good teammate. He's helped me out. He's on the sideline looking for stuff and he's encouraging and he's battling.

“He doesn't go out there and hang his head, which would be easy to do in his situation. He's worked all season long and I really respect him for that.”

Driskel would not speculate on whether he thought Brissett might leave.

“I'm not going to comment on that,” he said. “I hope that he doesn't (leave). That's up to him.”

Driskel another Tebow?

Like Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, Cardinals' secondary coach Vance Bedford is familiar with some of the Florida players.

UF's secondary coach from 2009-09, Bedford helped recruit Gillislee to Florida and was involved in the early recruitment of Driskel.

“Jeff was the No. 1 quarterback in the country at the time,” Bedford said. “You could see a version of Tim Tebow in him. He's big. He's strong. He's fast. He's athletic. How many quarterbacks across the country can run a 4.5 flat (40-yard dash)?

“He's a concern. When he gets back there in the pocket, it breaks down, he's a guy that can break out, find a receiver downfield or take off and run 50, 60 yards. It's going to be hard to tackle him in open space. We have a concern containing Jeff.”

Bedford said he's not surprised Gillislee has had a breakout season in his senior year, rushing for more than 1,000 yards.

“This is a guy out of high school running 10.5 (seconds) in the 100 meters,” Bedford said. “When he puts his foot in the ground, he can get vertical. In the last three years, you can see his body changed. They're running an offense that suits him. That's why he has over a thousand yards,

“You look at the big plays he's had in the open field, he can do a lot of things. He can catch the football. He can cut back. One thing we can't allow him to do is cut back on us. If he does, he's probably going to take it the distance.”

Bedford also knows a little bit about junior UF tight end Jordan Reed, who has been Driskel's go-to receiver.

“I tell you what, I remember Jordan Reed from this. We used to do one-on-one (at UF). He took one of our defensive ends as a true freshman and put him on his back,” Bedford said. “That's what I remember about him.

“He's an outstanding player. Athletic. He can run. He has excellent ball skills. He has size. He's a matchup problem for us. We're concerned about that.”

Getting on board with Charlie

Being close to Urban Meyer, Bedford said he had a tough decision to make when Strong took the UL job and offered him the defensive coordinator's position at Louisville. Bedford and running backs coach Kenny Carter both ended up leaving Meyer to join Strong's staff.

“I knew Urban when he was a wide receiver coach at Colorado State with Earle Bruce,” Bedford said. “We go way back. (UL) was an opportunity and a chance for me to go out and do different things. I told Charlie, ‘You've been an outstanding defensive coordinator for a long time. For me to come and work for you, I'm going to lean on you and trust you.'

“He's been there the entire time with us. That's one of the reasons we're playing great defense. He's a guy I can go to. We rode together, we're on the same page. Because of that, we're sitting here today.”

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