UF's tailback by committee

Florida Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) hands the ball off to Florida Gators running back Matt Jones (24) during the first half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday Sept. 21, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Tennessee 31-17. (Matt Stamey/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 10:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 10:30 p.m.

Last spring, Florida coach Will Muschamp anticipated building a physical running game around sophomore running back Matt Jones.

But some ball security issues involving Jones combined with the emergence of redshirt junior Mack Brown has turned UF’s running back situation into a timeshare.

Brown and Jones each scored touchdowns during UF’s 31-17 win over Tennessee on Saturday at The Swamp. Brown finished with 86 yards on 24 carries, while Jones overcame an early fumble to finish with 49 yards on 12 carries.

“We’re going to play the hot hand,” Muschamp said. “Whoever is running the ball well, we’re going to go with.”

Jones had his second fumble in two games when he turned the ball over following a short reception in the second quarter.

“I was disappointed that Matt coughed the ball up,” Muschamp said. “He was trying to change hands and he got hit. We’ve drilled that in practice.”

The 226-pound Jones was set back with a severe viral infection that forced him to miss UF’s entire preseason camp and its season opener against Toledo. That opened up the door for Brown, who impressed coaches with his 112-yard, two-TD performance against Toledo. More importantly, Brown has yet to fumble this season.

“I’ve got some big arms, too,” Brown said. “I try to squeeze the ball.”

Brown said he wasn’t discouraged when he found himself behind Jones in the depth chart Saturday against the Vols.

“In practice, we compete every day,” Brown said. “Coach always tells us, be ready. On the sidelines, you have to keep stretching because you never know when your time is going to come.

“Since I’ve been here, I’m going to compete. I’m going to compete ’til I leave here. That’s how I am.”

True freshman Kelvin Taylor also saw brief action in the second quarter, rushing for three yards on his only carry. Brown thinks that he can complement Jones and the rest of UF’s running backs well throughout the season.

“We have a stable of four backs, really,” Brown said. “We help each other out, keep each other fresh. Coach does that for us the whole game.”

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