UF running back Jones to play against Miami

Florida running back Matt Jones (24) has been out since before the start of fall camp with a viral infection. He returned to practice last week, dressed for the opener against Toledo on Saturday and is slated to be back on the field against Miami.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, September 2, 2013 at 5:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 2, 2013 at 5:44 p.m.

Florida coach Will Muschamp made it official Monday on Matt Jones. The Gators' No. 1 tailback will play in Saturday's game against Miami.


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Who: No. 10 Florida (1-0) vs. Miami (1-0)
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Coral Gables
Radio: WRUF

“Matt will play this week. He certainly will,” Muschamp said. “I feel pretty good about his progress. I think as we work through the week, we'll be able to know how much he will be able to contribute, but he certainly will play.”

Jones is listed as the starter on an updated depth chart that was sent out by UF on Monday afternoon.

Jones, who won the starting tailback job in the spring, has been out since before the start of fall camp with a viral infection. He returned to practice last week and dressed for the opener against Toledo on Saturday, going through warm-ups before retiring for the day.

Jones is expected to be full-go in practice this week, and ready for Saturday's game in Miami. How much he will play in the expected hot and muggy conditions is yet to be determined.

In his absence last week, junior Mack Brown rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns and likely has earned more carries going forward, Muschamp said. Three other tailbacks also got carries in the win over Toledo — Valdez Showers, Mark Herndon and true freshman Kelvin Taylor.

“Just more depth (having Jones back),” quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “He's a guy that's shown that he can play well in big games. He has great hands out of the backfield. He's solid in protection. He just gives us more depth.

“We can have fresh legs back there all game long. You saw at the end of the Toledo game when we put in fresh legs, Mark Herndon and Kelvin, they were just running all over them because their legs were fresh and the defense was tired. Whenever you have that it's always a good thing."

Jones isn't the only starter returning this week. Middle linebacker Antonio Morrison and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy have returned after serving one-game suspensions for violating team rules.

Senior Jaylen Watkins started in place of Purifoy in the opener, while Morrison's spot was taken by Michael Taylor, who also can play outside linebacker.

“(Morrison) brings certain physicality to our football team and he's a very good communicator at the linebacker position, which, for us, is critical because you've got to have a guy that is going to be able to relay the calls,” Muschamp said. “I'm really proud of Mike Taylor, Darrin Kitchens and Neiron Ball for this past Saturday.

“We put a lot on them on the line of scrimmage, which we do in every game, but even more so in a first-game situation with as hot as it was and with the tempo that Toledo played with. Those guys did a really good job, which is critical, and Antonio does a really nice job with that as well.”

Muschamp said he's not certain yet what the playing rotation will be at linebacker in Saturday's game. Morrison is listed as the back-up to Taylor on the depth chart.

“We'll work through the week,” he said. “But Neiron is playing extremely well. Mike Taylor is playing extremely well. I don't know Darrin, I'm hoping to get him back Wednesday. He's going to play this weekend, I do know that. I just don't know how many reps he is going to be able to take this week."

Muschamp said Kitchens pulled an oblique muscle Saturday and could miss a couple days of practice, but will play this Saturday.

The only other player injured in the opener was starting left tackle D.J. Humphries, who sprained his knee.

“We feel (Humphries) will be back (today) in a limited role, but full-time on Wednesday,” Muschamp said.

Additionally, Muschamp said starting defensive tackle Dominique Easley has the flu, but will return today.

Muschamp said the Gators had a good team meeting Monday morning.

Driskel said Muschamp told the players this is a week, and a game, where they have to control their emotions.

“The emotions are going to be high,” Driskel said. “There's going to be guys that know each other. And you always want to play well in front of your family and friends. About half our team is from South Florida, so they'll be ready to go. But he did mention that we need to handle ourselves, which we will."

Muschamp said the Gators have to play with composure.

“It's going to be a very emotional game, there's going to be some ups and downs,” he said. “You've got to play for 60 minutes. It's going to be an emotional game any time you play a rival or play somebody you know a lot about. Certainly, you need to make sure you keep your composure within the game and play through the situations.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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