Notebook: Jones' health improving


Matt Jones, right, has not been able to participate in preseason camp because of a viral infection. But, his chances of being cleared for the season opener seem to be increasing.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, August 19, 2013 at 11:57 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 19, 2013 at 11:57 a.m.

Florida starting running back Matt Jones' physical condition is improving as he recovers from a viral infection that has sidelined him for all of preseason camp.

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Matt Jones, right, has not been able to participate in preseason camp because of a viral infection. But, his chances of being cleared for the season opener seem to be increasing.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer

UF coach Will Muschamp said earlier this month that Jones lost around 10 pounds fighting the infection, but his weight is now back up and he's able to work out.

“He's about up to 223,” Muschamp said Monday. “When this happened he was 226. I'll know a little bit more as we move through the week, but he's been jogging and moving around a little bit more, which is good.”

There is still no timetable on Jones' return, but he got blood work done Monday and his chances of being cleared for the season opener seem to be increasing.

“All I know is he is progressing very well,” Muschamp said. “I get a daily update. He feels good, he's doing more and more every day from a workout standpoint and that's all I know. We're playing it by ear.”

Muschamp and his staff have been preparing for the possibility of Jones missing the season opener against Toledo.

“We've planned that way the whole time,” he said. “Any time you have something like this and you're in uncharted waters and you're uncertain of it, you always plan without the player.

“That's what I do through camp all the time. We'll be in the middle of a scrimmage and I'll say, 'So and so's down.' I don't tell the staff before, but now we've got to make an adjustment. That's what happens in the game. This guy's out. What are we doing? We've got to make adjustments on the run in a game situation, knowing what I know we will do.”

Freshman backs struggling

Muschamp announced the pecking order behind Jones at running back is Mack Brown, walk-on Mark Herndon and former safety Valdez Showers, who just moved to the position last week.

Surprisingly missing from the rotation are freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane, whom players and coaches spoke highly of prior to Monday.

Taylor was expected to compete with Brown for the backup job, while Lane has been the toughest tailback to tackle in camp, according to defenders.

But Muschamp needs to see them reduce their fumbles and improve in pass protection before they move up the depth chart.

“Number one is ball security,” Muschamp said. “You've got to take care of the football. That's the number one thing. They're very talented runners, (but) so much more goes into it other than just running the football. ... We like to make sure the quarterback is protected.

“They've got to take a step. Very pleased with both guys. They're going to help us this year. How much, their role, will depend on how they continue to develop. It's a long season. They're going to help us this year.”

Muschamp said Showers' move to offense is permanent right now.

“He's got great top-end speed. He's got really good ball skills. He can do a lot of different things for us as far as lining up at receiver, lining up in the backfield. A tough guy to account for a defensive coordinator. Been very pleased with what he's added for us offensively,” Muschamp said.

Defensive starters named

Muschamp revealed the starters at safety and linebacker during Monday's media availability.

“Marcus Maye and Cody (Riggs) right now are guys that I think have taken a step forward,” Muschamp said when asked about the starting safeties. “Jabari Gorman has played extremely well. We've got three guys that we feel good about.”

With Antonio Morrison suspended, Neiron Ball (weakside), Mike Taylor (middle) and Ronald Powell (strongside) will start at the linebacker positions. Their backups are Darrin Kitchens, Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian.

As for Morrison, Muschamp said his two-game suspension is still in place “at this time.”

This and that

Muschamp said cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and wide receiver Solomon Patton are the players taking reps on kickoff return, while cornerback Marcus Roberson is returning punts exclusively. ... Muschamp believes fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring), offensive guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral muscle), defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (patella) and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (shoulder) will be ready for game week. Receiver Raphael Andrades (turf toe) is out for 10 days.

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