Notebook: Gators seeking dual-threat backs


Florida running back Matt Jones (24) runs with the ball after a catch during a drill at the first of two open spring football practices that the Gators are having at the Sanders Practice Field on the UF campus, in Gainesville, Friday March 15, 2013. Saturday's practice will also be open to the public from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Su
Published: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 2:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 2:06 p.m.

One of Florida's offensive goals this spring is to get the tailbacks more involved in the passing game. True sophomore Matt Jones apparently is helping make that happen.

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Florida running back Matt Jones (24) runs with the ball after a catch during a drill at the first of two open spring football practices that the Gators are having at the Sanders Practice Field on the UF campus, in Gainesville, Friday March 15, 2013. Saturday's practice will also be open to the public from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Su

“He's got very good hands,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “That was one of the things that jumps out at you at Armwood (High School) for coach (Sean) Callahan down there. They got in a lot of empty (backfield) and put him in the slot. They threw bubbles and different things and vertical routes to him.

“That was one of the things we really like about him other than his physical run style. Very good in protection. Very intelligent. He's got the whole package as far as a back. Now, he's just got to continue to do it consistently.”

Jones said he's comfortable catching the ball.

“I definitely love catching the ball out of the backfield,” he said. “It gives me an opportunity to be one-on-one in space with a linebacker or defensive back.

“Knowing that coach (Brent) Pease likes running backs getting downfield and catching the ball, it's great for me, and I think it's a great opportunity for me to go in and catch the ball.”

Muschamp said Jones and the other backs are going to be more involved in the passing game this season.

“A lot of the intermediate passing game (last season) was to (tight end) Jordan Reed,” Muschamp said. “That's where we're kind of searching right now. Involving the backs more now and getting the ball to your playmakers is the No. 1 option, and certainly our backs are capable of that if we can't get the production from the tight end position.”

Kitchens makes a move

With true freshman Alex Anzalone out for the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this week, senior Darrin Kitchens has been moved from strongside linebacker to middle linebacker, where he's the No. 2 guy behind sophomore Antonio Morrison.

“Darrin moved inside, and, of course, is a guy who has played a lot of positions for us,” Muschamp said. “He can play Sam. He can play Mike. He can play Will. He can do a lot of things for us.

“(True freshman) Daniel McMillian continues to rep in there. Jeremi Powell has been a guy we can move into different spots. Neiron Ball continues to play Sam and Buck to give us some rush on third down. That has been what we've rotated through there.”

Gators get after it early

In an attempt to have the players fresh for this morning's scrimmage, the Gators moved Friday's practice from the afternoon to 5:40 a.m. Muschamp said UF did the same thing a year ago.

“Simply for the turnaround for Saturday,” he said. “I don't like leaving the practice field at 6:30 Friday afternoon and then you come back for Saturday practice (in the morning). I wanted to get some recovery time and then also review the film and install for Saturday.

“It's really not any magic deal there. We're just trying to separate the practices. We did this last year, and the kids liked it. That's really all it is.”

Muschamp said he would like to see strides made in several position groups during today's scrimmage.

“Depth at linebacker, safety, tight end, and continue to create some things outside at the receiver position,” he said. “Those are the ones that would jump out at me. I think we need to make positive strides.

“Consistency out wide, tight ends need to improve. Linebacker and safety are two critical, critical areas of our football team.”

Cool with Poole

True sophomore cornerback Brian Poole is listed as the starter at the nickel position, and at 5-foot-10, 203 pounds he's capable of doing some of the same things Matt Elam did at the position, Muschamp said.

“You need to have a guy with a little more girth. Got to be a good blitzer, got to be a good run player, and have coverage ability,” Muschamp said. “Brian has both. Brian is a guy that's got some good potential for that position, and he's had six very solid spring days so far.

“I've been pleased to this point. Again, young player consistency in his performance all the way through. My challenge for him is day in and day out continuing to do it.”

This and that

Former standout offensive lineman Crawford Ker attended Friday's practice. “Crawford Ker was here this morning. Former Great Wall member in the 1980s. It was great to see him back here. I remember (him). I remember the Great Wall — Phil Bromley, Jeff Zimmerman, Crawford, Lomas Brown. 1984,” Muschamp said. … Muschamp said there is nothing new to report on suspended offensive guard Jessamen Dunker, who is facing a charge of grand theft of a motor vehicle after being caught driving a stolen scooter earlier this year. “Still suspended. We will let the legal process take its course. Once that decision is made, then I will make a decision,” Muschamp said. … Muschamp said there is no place for complacency in his program. “Complacency kills your program. When you get complacent, you feel good about where you are. That's not good. You've got to be very comfortable feeling uncomfortable in this building,” he said.

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