Forward focus: A look at Florida's running backs
Published: Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10:42 p.m.
The Florida Gators experienced a considerable bump in Will Muschamp's second season, going from 7-6 in 2011 to 11-2 in 2012 with a berth in a BCS bowl game.
2013 Probable depth chart
24-Matt Jones OR
-- Kelvin Taylor
-- Adam Lane
So, what happens in Year 3?
With so many player departing through a combination of graduation, transfers and leaving early for the NFL, UF is a team in transition as it moves forward into 2013.
Over the next few weeks, The Sun will break down the Gators position-by-position to give readers an idea what to expect what what this UF team might look like in the fall.
Today: Running back.
Last week: Quarterbacks. For a look back, click to Gatorsports.com.
Finally in an offensive scheme that fit his running style, tailback Mike Gillislee had a huge senior season, rushing for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was the focal point of the offense and far and away the Gators' most productive offensive player. He had huge TD runs against Texas A&M, LSU and Florida State. He became the first UF back to break the 1,000-yard barrier since CIatrick Fason in 2004. So, basically, a huge chunk of the offense is leaving with Gillislee. Another tailback who was not a factor, Chris Johnson, also is gone. Buried on the depth chart, he recently made the decision to transfer.
Matt Jones came on strong in his true freshman season in 2012 and would appear to be the leading candidate to win the starting tailback role in the spring. He rushed for 275 yards and three touchdowns and saw his carries and production increase in the second half of the season as he became more comfortable in the offense. He's a big back with a good combination of size, speed and vision. Redshirt junior Mack Brown showed some flashes in 2012 and should see more carries in 2013. But in his career, Brown has carried the ball only 40 times for 167 yards. The Gators return their top two players at fullback — Trey Burton and Hunter Joyer. Burton is UF's most versatile offensive player. He lines up at fullback, wide receiver, slot receiver and wildcat quarterback. Most of his carries come out of the wildcat. Joyer is more of a classic old-school fullback whose blocking skills are essential in the downhill running game.
Jones and Brown figure to get pushed hard in the spring by true freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor, the state's all-time leading high school rusher and the son of a former UF great, running back Fred Taylor. With so little depth at tailback, Taylor likely will get numerous touches in the spring and will have a chance to be a factor in the competition for the starting role if he can pick up the offense quickly. He's a natural runner with quick feet and excellent vision. Another true freshman, Adam Lane, will get in the mix at tailback when he arrives this summer.
The Gators will enter the 2013 season with only four scholarship tailbacks (Jones, Brown, Taylor and Lane), which is not a lot in the rugged SEC. And none of the four have proven themselves yet at this level, although Jones showed flashes in the second half of last season. UF could find itself in a tailback-by-committee situation, at least early in the season. The Gators should be sound again at fullback, but depth remains a concern at the position.
STRONGER OR WEAKER IN 2013?
With the competition expected to be so close among the tailbacks, it's doubtful a dominant tailback will emerge like GIllislee did last season. Although it's seems unlikely the Gators will have a 1,000-yard rusher for the second consecutive season, the four tailbacks could combine for similar production at the position. But without a dominant tailback, you'd have to say the running back position likely will be a shade weaker in 2013.
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