Notebook: Jones makes practice appearance


Florida running back Matt Jones (24) watches a drill during UF's spring practice on March 15 at Sanders Practice Field.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 7:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 7:03 p.m.

Starting tailback Matt Jones is still not officially back practicing with the Gators yet, but he's apparently getting closer to making his return.

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Florida running back Matt Jones (24) watches a drill during UF's spring practice on March 15 at Sanders Practice Field.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer

Fellow tailback Mark Herndon said Tuesday that Jones spent some time with the team early in practice Tuesday. Jones was in a jersey and helmet (for the first time since camp started earlier this month), according to some fans who were there. Only UF students were allowed to attend Tuesday's practice at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

“It's really exciting because everyone misses him,” Herndon said. “I even miss him. We're still friends even though we're all competing for that No. 1 spot.

“I feel him coming back would make the whole running back squad better. It would make everybody stay on their toes and feel like you've got a fire behind you, so it keeps you running.”

Herndon was asked if Jones was back to being his old self.

“To be honest, even when he was in the hospital he was always the same,” Herndon said. “He was laughing, joking with us. We were watching Family Guy or something like that.

“His persona and demeanor haven't changed at all. He's still a very positive person.”

Jones was hospitalized with a viral infection the week before the opening of camp. UF coach Will Muschamp said Monday there is still no timetable for his return, although Jones has been doing cardio work.

Muschamp said Jones was scheduled to get a blood test Monday.

After Jones was seen at practice in his jersey, shorts and helmet, speculation spread that Jones had returned to practice. But a UF spokesman said later in the day that Jones, in fact, did not practice Tuesday.

Once he does return, Jones will not be allowed to wear full pads until his fifth practice, per NCAA acclimation rules.

Inside scoop on Ball

Junior Neiron Ball said he's feeling right at home after making the move from outside linebacker to inside linebacker.

“It really wasn't hard (making the move),” he said. “I like it better than the Sam (strongside linebacker) position. I feel it fits me because I get to move around a lot more (and use my speed).”

Ball said the coaches told him before camp they felt it would be good for him, and he was willing to try. Now, he's a starter at his new spot after putting together a strong camp that has drawn praise from Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin.

“I'd never played it before,” Ball said. “But I feel I fit the position.”

Competing roommates

Off the field, junior cornerback Marcus Roberson and true freshman wide receiver Demarcus Robinson are roommates. In practice, they compete against each other.

“He's a great guy,” Roberson said. “We talk it up a lot. He's a good player. He's a good freshman. The best (wide receiver coming out of) high school (on the team) so far. He's impressed me. I really like him and think he'll be a big help (on offense).”

The two also are competing at the same spot on special teams at punt returner.

“I don't try to teach him anything,” said Roberson, who became the starting punt returner last season. “He's an athlete. He's a pretty good (punt returner).”

This and that

The Gators will not practice today (the first day of classes at UF) after holding their final open practice Tuesday. According to several posts on Twitter, true freshman safety Nick Washington was injured in the workout, but was able to walk off the field under his own power and appeared fine after that. … UF will practice Thursday and Friday, then have the weekend off as the Gators head into game week.

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