Tailback a concern for Muschamp

Will Muschamp says Mack Brown has been doing good things, but cites lack of experience as a concern.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, August 12, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 12, 2013 at 8:23 p.m.

With the start of the season now less than three weeks away, the Florida Gators are facing the possibility of entering the Aug. 31 opener with a depth chart at tailback that consists of a first-time junior starter, two true freshmen and a walk-on.

It is a growing concern, one that stems from the uncertainty surrounding Matt Jones' recovery from a viral infection.

“Obviously, I'm a little concerned about the running back position with Matt Jones being out,” UF coach Will Muschamp said Monday. “Mack Brown has done some nice things, but from an experience standpoint, we take a huge step from where we've been. That's a concerning issue."

Jones, who was hospitalized three weeks ago with the infection, is back doing some cardio work, watching practice and attending meetings, but there still is no timetable for his return.

It could be days. It could be weeks. No one knows for sure at this point.

“Beginning of the season at some point, whether it's the first week or the second week or as you head into the open week, he's going to play for us this year,” Muschamp said. “Whether they come to me Aug. 19 and say, 'Hey, we want to get him out there.' That's the feedback I've gotten. It's totally up to (the doctors).

“I think we need to be really careful right now that we don't have a relapse of the situation. Whatever our medical people tell me as far as the different things they're doing with him in the weight room, cardio-wise, they're going to let me know as far as the other stuff is concerned.”

As the days and practices go by, there's a chance the Gators could open the season against Toledo without Jones, their No. 1 tailback.

“Well, that may be a reality, but I don't know that,” Muschamp said. “Again, I talked to one of the doctors at Shands and he said when you're dealing with the human body, you never know. You don't know how he's going to respond and how quickly. He said the great thing is he's young and he was in great shape and it knocked him down a little bit, but he's a guy who's going to respond very quickly.”

While Jones continues to recover, the tailback position looks like this: Brown, a fourth-year junior, is the starter, while the backups are true freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane and walk-on Mark Herndon.

That leaves the Gators with a starter who has never started a game and backups with zero playing experience at the position. (Herndon played in six games on special teams last season).

Muschamp has praised the play of the tailbacks who are in camp. Taylor, an early enrollee who was impressive in the spring game, scored a touchdown in Saturday's scrimmage.

"Kelvin's played well. He really has,” Muschamp said. “He did some nice things in the scrimmage Saturday. We've got to continue to preach ball security. He put it on the ground last night, and that's something we can't have happen.

“But, again, been very pleased with his progress. He's very quick in his lower body, gets it north and south and he runs the way we want it to be run at Florida."

Muschamp said he's also been pleased with the 5-foot-7, 222-pound Lane.

“Adam's done some nice things,” Muschamp said. “He's a guy that's really a tough guy to tackle. There's not a lot of soft spots on him. He's a guy that's very difficult. You've got to bend your lower body to tackle him. He moves the pile well. He's got really good vision. I'm very pleased with his production so far.”

While Brown, Taylor and Lane are getting the carries in camp, Jones is still in a position where he can only watch as the season draws nearer.

“He's doing some cardio. He still is out indefinitely,” Muschamp said. “I don't know. I do not have a timetable on that. They update me every day. He's doing a little more here and there. We've just gotta be careful with his condition there.”

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