Matt Jones’ commitment to UF is a big deal

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Armwood junior running back Matt Jones finds a hole in the Tallahassee Lincoln defense during the Hawks' Class 4A state championship game at the Citrus Bowl. Photo by Bill Ward/The Tampa Tribune

For six years, Urban Meyer searched for it.

He looked high and low. East and west.

Still, one of the best recruiters in college football couldn’t haul in the elusive big running back to save his life while at Florida. He certainly came close a few times.

There was the last-second change-of-heart by C.J. Spiller, who shocked everyone with his decision to pick Clemson over close-to-home Florida. We all know how his career turned out.

A year later Florida signed the 6-foot-1, 203-pound Bo Williams, but he eventually transferred to Iowa State.

Florida had been in the race for a few bruisers, but had yet to reel in a true every-down back.

Florida currently has rising junior Mike Gillislee and redshirt freshman Mack Brown, neither of whom crack 6-0 or more than 210 pounds. While talented, they might not be considered big, bruising backs.

Well, what Meyer annually missed on, new coach Will Muschamp has secured only months onto the job.

On Monday, Seffner Armwood running back Matt Jones, who stands 6-3, 215 pounds, committed to Florida, making him the third Gator commitment of the 2012 class.

On Wednesday, Jones, whom Scout.com rates as a five-star prospect and who made Rivals.com’s Rivals250 Watch List, had a public ceremony at his high school to discuss his early commitment.

“I chose the University of Florida because I love the coaching staff and I love some of the players on the team. Gator country felt like home to me,” Jones said. “I truly believe that I will rock the Gator Nation. By getting this commitment behind me now, I can give all my attention to my academics and football.”

That last sentence truly is refreshing to read.

Jones went on to say that he is done with the recruiting process, saying he won’t miss looking at the 14 missed calls on his cell phone a night (some from me I’m sure) and the massive amount of text and Facebook messages he hated replying to (me as well).

“I’m a Gator for life,” he said. “I’m not taking any other visits.”

So how huge is this pickup for the Gators?

Gigantic.

No. Really, it is.

Notice how almost every team in the SEC, except Florida, has a tank-like running back to carry most of the offensive load?

It had to be frustrating for Gator fans to not see a Florida running back reach the 1,000-yard mark under Meyer. In fact, Ciatrick Fason (6-0, 215)  was the last Gator to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season way back in 2004 when he finished with 1,267 yards and led the SEC with 105.6 yards per game.

While running the spread, Florida never really needed a bigger back, and Florida’s running game was just fine.

However, with a bumbling offense on display in 2010, the Gators would have benefited greatly from a stronger running game. Injuries plagued Florida’s backfield, and while Florida finished sixth in the SEC in rushing (166.5 yards per game), there was no short-yardage guy. No one big enough and strong enough to get the Gators critical yards.

Brown could be that guy, if he can gain the weight, and Gillislee showed he’s got the skills to be an every-down back. But, like Brown, weight could be an issue. It’s still unclear if either will be durable enough to withstand a full season of pounding in the country’s most brutal conference.

Eight of the nine top SEC running backs weighed 215 pounds or more in 2010. The top three rushers were at least 6-0 and each surpassed the 215-pound mark and eight had double-digit rushing touchdown numbers.

Jones is already taller than any of the top rushers and weighs the same as five of them. He immediately fits the profile as that bigger SEC back Florida has been missing since DeShawn Wynn (5-11, 238) helped the Gators to the 2006 national championship.

“They told me they need a big back in their pro-style offense,” Jones said. “They are going to work on their guys and get them better, but they need a bigger guy to come in and run with the ball downhill.”

It didn’t hurt Florida that new running backs coach Brian White, formerly the tight ends coach, coached Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne at Wisconsin as the offensive coordinator/running backs coach. Dayne is also the Football Bowl Subdivision’s all-time leading rusher with 6,397 yards (bowl games not included).

As a junior, Jones rushed for 1,438 yards and 26 touchdowns and claimed around 30 offers before his commitment to Florida.

Though Jones has more than a year until he graduates, he said he won’t give coaches — outside of Florida’s — any feedback when they try to get a hold of him. He strongly insists his recruitment is over.

Verbals mean hardly anything these days in recruiting, but since Armwood coach Sean Callahan took over, he’s had just one decommitment from one of his football players and he doesn’t intend to see Jones fall into that category.

“We don’t want Matt to be the second,” Callahan said. “We need to bring some honor in recruiting.

“Matt’s word is good. Our word is good. And I really believe that the University of Florida’s word is good, too.”

59 COMMENTS

  1. Without actually hearing him speak, he sounds like he has a good head on his shoulders. Let’s hope that’s the case. I read quotes from Clowney as well, which sounded okay, but to hear him live, he sounded like he should be in middle school.
    I love Matt’s enthusiasm for the university. He should be a great asset to our team!!

  2. We’ll have to wait and see if Jones is finished growing, given that he’s still just a junior. It wouldn’t be unusual to see him grow another couple of inches before arriving in Gainesville, which would end any plans to be a RB in college. Let’s hope he works a bit on his receiving skills, as he could end up being a WR or TE by the time he suits up for UF.

  3. You should look up this kid’s highlight reel. It is very impressive. He breaks tackles easily. His height is offset with shorter legs which means less chance for knee injuries, and a longer upper torso which enables him to have enormous upper-body leverage strength. This kid is projecting to be as big as Fred Taylor, who was 6-1 and 228 lbs. in his senior year (and Taylor’s son is lookingto be a Gator too when he graduates, and he’s a 5* talent too). Jones is a big, physical kid who can get his shoulders down low a lot like Trey Burton can, and will get those extra yards. This kid ia a huge get for UF.

  4. Him and James Wilder were interviewed together. The difference is Matt Jones never questioned his heart. Wilder let Fisher pour honey suckle into his ear so he couldn’t hear the truth. It’s a shame. ESPN is promoting FSU like they have done anything. They did the same with NFL Green Bay for the supper bowl. They need the ACC to be relevant again to keep the smaller schools out an in line.

  5. FINALLY!!!
    After inquiring about a dozen times, or so, over the past couple-few months (of you – Ed – Pat, Robbie and even a couple of the other guys), the answer is finally revealed,… indirectly!
    … Mack Brown WAS redshirted. Excellent!
    THANKS (I guess)
    ————
    IGTBAG!
    Ciao

  6. Ok I have a good feeling about this recruit! Gator Nation looks forward to having you! Another thing also WM SHOULD take a trip over here to Tallahassee there’s ALOT of hidden talent running through Lincoln, and Leon high for our DL, and possibly some good ATHL’S too. Even though it’s FSU territory over here I personally know that if WM come evaluate the talent + finds something he likes, if an offer is made they’re GOING to flock to UF!

  7. Great job Matt! Welcome to Gator Nation. Glad to hear that he’s not wanting to talk to any other coaches or listen to other offers. UF needed a big back to offset our little speed guys. Looks to be a big recruiting year. Keep it going!!

  8. Ed

    This isnt a big deal AT ALL. Its almost a year until signing day so some kids verbal”commitment” doesnt mean jack. Weve all seen these arrogant punks “commit” to someone and be “solid” right up until they dont sign with the school they said they were going to. People need to quit giving these kids so much attention especially over a verbal “commitment”. Its nothing but worthless words.

  9. You tube his commitment. Jones is doing it the right way with class and respect. Talks great, respectful and seems like a hard worker. Great kid and glad hes Gator Nation. Bringing Honor to recruiting, love it.

  10. Sorry Ed, It does not take a rocket scientist to understand why True Running Backs and Receivers ran away from Urban Meyer…the gimmick offset run, short pass, deception speed-back yard ball did not have NFL future written on it…I sat in the stands for my first Gator game 42 years ago watching a Doug Dickey coached team…and today as a Dad, if I had a Multi Star Runnig Back, Receiver, or QB, we would not have visited Florida during the Meyer years…Defense on the other hand would have been a proiority one visit…Coach Strong did an amazing job growing and developing talent…So very gald to see the True Skill Positions interested in Florida again…Go Gators!

  11. Wow! Finally!! Matt Jones will be a splendid addition for the Gator run game. And if we can get Kelvin Taylor too. Alternate these guys by series and watch the opposing defenses just wear out!! Finally some thunder to go with our lightening! Watch out for the Florida bazookas to go with out Uzis!!

  12. LT,
    I think your attitude towards kids STINK, these are kids remember and they are entitled to change their minds. Don’t label them as arrogant punks because all of these grown up popular head coaches are kissing their A$$e$ all through there high school careers and promising them everything they think they might want. It is highly possible that you would react the very same way if all this was bestored on you, I think your tone is mean spirited. But just like you, thats just my opinion. Go GATORS!!!

  13. Nice recruit. Something tells me he’ll be on defense by the end of his college career though. They just don’t have RBs built like that now-a-days. He could be 235 pounds easily, on that frame, once Mario gets a hold of him. I’m predicting LB, by his Sophmore year. It will be too tempting not to.

  14. Don Barker, Urban Meyer’s offense didn’t have NFL future written on it? Didn’t it produce an NFL rookie of the year in Percy Harvin? Isn’t Louis Murphy doing pretty good for the Raiders? Didn’t Urban coach a QB that was the first to go in an NFL draft? I guess Urban needed to be perfect and crank out NFL caliber players year after after year in order to earn your satisfaction, huh?

  15. I’ll be willing to wager that Jones will never see the defensive side of the ball, but FSU’s James Wilder will, by his sophomore season (depending upon redshirt status). Wilder is huge, and everyone except FSU recruited him as a LB because his physical development projected him as a LB. The only reason he went to FSU is because they gave him the shot at RB, where he clearly is not at his athletic best. Wilder does not have the instinctual RB mentality, runs high, has longer legs, but has good leg strength. At LB is where he’ll eventually end up, and probably be a first round NFL draft pick IMO. Interesting that the “star” of FSU’s recruiting class is a player that will never graduate from the position he was recruited to play. Their entire class, a solid one albiet, was ranked #2 because they oversigned by 5 players. Attrition will cost them other players though. I see about 8 players in that entire class that really stand out to me as being very, very good. The others are still unproven commodities. UF’s Matt Jones has the pure RB instinct. He runs LOW to the ground and gets hi sshoulders down, he can break tackles, he’s fluid between the tackles, has shorter legs compared to his longer upper body, and has great upper strength. Big difference in athletes between these two.

  16. I think this guy will be a beast after watching his Youtube video. He is a great mix of power speed and vision. I also like the Mike Blakely guy they got from bradenton manatee – I remember watching them play plant and thinking he was better than wilder!

  17. I lived next door to Matt and his brother Josh is a very good friend of mind.Matt is a big boy, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders, TRUST ME you don’t have to worry about him smoking weed I know that for a fact!

  18. Gators need to have more than one dimension on offense and it has seemed lately like they got whupped on the line of scrimmage because of their inability to have a big back run north and south. This looks to be great signing by the Gators. Go Gators!

  19. […] Hailing from powerhouse Armwood High School in Seffner, FL, Jones had a nice career for the Hawks. In his junior season, he rushed for 1,438 yards and 26 touchdowns. That season drew a lot of attention from major college programs, including Florida. On Valentine’s Day of his junior year, Jones decided to end the recruiting process and choose Florida, despite drawing heavy interest from the nation’s elite. That summer, he faced his first speed bump. “I chose the University of Florida because I love the coaching staff and I love some of the players on the team. Gator country felt like home to me,” Jones said. “I truly believe that I will rock the Gator Nation. By getting this commitment behind me now, I can give all my attention to my academics and football. I’m a Gator for life,” he said. “I’m not taking any other visits.” – Matt Jones to the Gainesville Sun […]