Brown looks to lead UF's tailback by committee approach
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 9:36 p.m.
The way 226-pound Matt Jones sped away from the competition at tailback in the spring, the Florida Gators were expecting to enter the 2013 season with a potentially dominant every-down back in the downhill running game.
Now, with Jones still not ready to play as he recovers from a viral infection, that every-down back plan is out of the playbook for the moment.
Junior Mack Brown will start Saturday's game against Toledo, but it looks like the Gators are going to go with a tailback by committee in the opener.
“Well, I think scheme-wise what we do probably stays the same,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Tuesday. “As far as how we go about it, it probably changes. Matt was going to carry (the ball most of the time). He was going to be tired after every game.
“Now, I don't know, we'll see who kind of has the hot hand. We've got guys kind of used to their roles and they have to embrace their role. And if they want more of a role, do a good job.”
The Gators have plenty of options at tailback. But none with any starting experience. Brown has played in the past two years, but he'll be making his first start Saturday. Behind him are former walk-on Mark Herndon (who was awarded a scholarship last week) and former safety Valdez Showers, who made the move to offense a little more than two weeks ago.
Two other options are true freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane. Although they are not listed on the depth chart for Saturday's game, Pease said one or both could end up getting carries against the Rockets.
“Well, I think they factor into the game plan,” Pease said. “When you say game plan, once again, they've got to understand their role. Will they be in there? They have the opportunity. Is the game plan kind of built around them? Probably not right now.
“We'll see as we go. Depth, what the other guys are doing, how the game flow goes, it kind of depends on that and we won't have the answers to that until we're in it. We'll see.”
The role for the two freshmen is yet to be defined. The three other tailbacks — Brown, Herndon and Showers — are all scheduled to get carries.
“I have a great comfort level with Mack and Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “I think all those guys are quality backs.
“I think Matt (Jones) gives you a little added dimension with his size and power, but we have good packages for those guys during the game and we'll continue to use those during the season.”
The leadoff man in the tailback rotation will be the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Brown, who has played in 24 games, but has rushed for only 167 yards on 40 carries in his UF career.
“I'm expecting him to be consistent and not have mental mistakes,” Pease said. “Pound the ball in there.”
“He's a physical runner. He's had plays. He gives us some experience. We've got to use him to his strengths. He's a downhill runner.”
Brown said he's waited a long time for this opportunity, and he hopes to make the most of it.
“It's big (getting this opportunity),” Brown said. “In the offseason I had been training hard for this opportunity. It's a blessing. I'm just going to go into the game and run hard.
“I don't know (if I'll be the featured back). The coaches haven't decided really yet. I just know I'm starting the game Saturday and I'm very excited for it.”
Behind Brown, there is zero experience at the position. Herndon played in six games last season, mostly on special teams, while Showers was a back-up safety.
Showers is trying to fill the Omarius Hines role (combination running back/slot receiver) from a year ago. Showers was a standout offensive player in high school, rushing for 2,024 yards and 29 touchdowns in his senior season at Madison High in Detroit.
Showers said he has always considered himself an offensive player, even when he was at safety the past two years.
“Yeah, that's something you can't let go,” he said. “Even when you're on defense and you get those (interceptions), you want to score.
“(My role) is very similar to Omarius Hines — scat-back type of deal, screens, stuff like that. I'm going to be in on certain plays, just to have certain plays that feature me. That's all I know."
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.