Florida Gators: Adam Lane
We're here to get you ready with a look at the top five Gators to watch when practice gets started on March 19.
This week-long series concludes with a look at a sleeper candidate at running back.
5-foot-7, 222 pounds
Credentials: Lane came out of Winter Haven (Fla.) High School as the No. 15-ranked running back prospect in the Class of 2013. A four-star recruit, he was ranked No. 173 overall in the ESPN 300. But those rankings could have been higher had he not broken his leg and missed his entire junior season in 2011. The first pledge in Florida's 2013 class, Lane came back from that injury to run 205 times for 1,624 yards (7.9 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns as a senior in 2012.
How he fits: He's been compared to Maurice Jones-Drew, and one look at Lane's body explains it. He's compact, built like a bowling ball, and he runs like one. Lane has enough speed to make defenders miss but really frustrates opponents when he hides behind linemen before exploding to the next level. He's strong enough to initiate contact and drag defenders and strong enough to win a state weightlifting title in his senior year of high school (he benched 415 pounds). Lane is unlikely to suddenly compete for the starting tailback job at UF after redshirting last season, but his running style gives him a great chance to find niche in new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's still-developing scheme.
Who he's competing with: Florida has no shortage of options at tailback. Matt Jones was the starter last season, but torn cartilage in his knee required two surgeries. He's expected to be healthy and a big factor in the competition this fall but will sit out the spring. When Jones got hurt last season, true freshman Kelvin Taylor became the starter and improved throughout the second half of the season. Considering Jones' health, Taylor is the prohibitive favorite to be Florida's starter in 2014. Then there's senior Mack Brown and junior Valdez Showers. Brown proved he can be a reliable backup last season, while Showers made a successful conversion from safety to running back and showed promise as a change-of-pace back who can be a threat catching passes out of the backfield. Finally, true freshman early enrollee Brandon Powell hopes to use spring football practices to give the Gators something they lack -- an explosive home-run threat who can stretch the field in every direction.
What needs to happen this spring: The outlook at tailback is rather muddled. Lane has plenty of competition, so he'll have to stand out in spring practice and be consistent in order to carve out a role. The ideal situation for Lane, and for Florida to take advantage of so much talent at the position, would be a committee. Good thing the reins are in the hands of Roper, who did just that at Duke. Last season the Blue Devils made use of four running backs (two primary ball-carriers and two complementary backs) as well as two quarterbacks who could run. That kind of committee approach could work perfectly at UF this season. Of course the Gators would be just as thrilled to lean mostly on one back if Taylor becomes a star or if Jones gets healthy and taps his vast potential. But one thing is certain: Florida is going to run, run and run some more in 2014.
To do that Florida needs several players to step forward. Unknowns need to become contributors. Depth players need to become starters. Standouts need to become stars.
Here are five Gators who have to step up on offense in 2014.
LT D.J. Humphries: It's no coincidence that everyone on this list struggled in 2013, either with injuries or performance or both. Humphries came to Florida with such pedigree, such advanced technique that he was never supposed to be the kind of player singled out in this manner. But he definitely fell into the third category as he struggled on the field before succumbing to an injury. Humphries started the first six games of his sophomore season before being taken out of the starting lineup against Missouri in Week 7. A sprained MCL cost him the final five games of the season. Now the Gators need Humphries to shake off the memories from those last couple of games and be the stalwart left tackle who protects Driskel's blind side. Humphries should devote his spring and fall practice sessions to polishing his technique, but at 6-5 and 285 pounds, he would benefit greatly from an offseason at the training table and in the strength program to add another 20 pounds and improve his upper-body strength.
WR Andre Debose: After a tearing his ACL in preseason last fall, the senior is expected back for his sixth season of eligibility. As many times as exasperated fans have thought "it's now or never" for Debose, the 2014 season really is it. Debose has teased Florida with his talent throughout a career filled with peaks and valleys. He was the nation's No. 2 receiver in the Class of 2009 and prompted then-coach Urban Meyer label him the "next Percy Harvin" before he ever put on cleats. Debose missed that first season with a knee injury and has just 29 career catches for 543 yards and four touchdowns. He's never started more than four games in a season, but he did prove to be an excellent kickoff returner. He's also a solid deep threat in the passing game, as all four of his career touchdown catches went for 64 yards or longer in the 2011 season. Now, more than ever, the Gators are desperate for a reliable veteran who can make plays at receiver. Debose has never impressed his coaches with his work ethic, but perhaps another long season on the sideline has helped mature a player who is obviously gifted.
WR Demarcus Robinson: Several receivers have come to UF in the last few years as the next big thing. It's almost become a running joke that a freshman emerges every spring looking the part of an instant contributor, if not a starter. Rarely has it carried over in games that count. Robinson did just that last year, following in the footsteps of previous spring stars like Latroy Pittman and Frankie Hammond Jr. and then finishing 2013 with five catches for 23 yards. Along the way, there were questions about his maturity and consistency. But there's no questioning Robinson's size, speed and hands. For Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips, the extra attention he'll pay to Robinson this offseason could pay big dividends if he can put it all together in his sophomore season.
In coming up with this list, two positions stood out for very different reasons -- no running backs or tight ends were included.
Florida has a stable of capable tailbacks it can turn to this fall. Sophomore Kelvin Taylor got plenty of experience in 2013. There's a reliable senior backup in Mack Brown. Former starter Matt Jones is a wild card looking to return from last season's knee injury. And redshirt freshman Adam Lane is a promising prospect.
The tight end position, however, is a sore spot that produced all of four catches last season. Florida relies on two former defensive linemen in Tevin Westbrook and Clay Burton. Colin Thompson looks the part but has seen his career plagued by a nagging foot injury. Florida's best hope might be an early entry freshman in DeAndre Goolsby.
Will Muschamp is a head coach who needs results right away, and the Gators are expected to try just about anything to achieve them -- uptempo, no-huddle, spread, zone read. You name it.
After three years of a pro-style offense that had a heavy emphasis on downhill running, there will be changes.
Practice time will be at a premium, but Roper has a plan.
He'll start with incumbent quarterback Jeff Driskel and find what he does best. Then Roper will do the same with his offensive line and skill positions.
"I think you’ve got plenty of time through spring practice and through fall practice to make those decisions," he said. "So you get 15 opportunities in spring practice to make those decisions, and then you get 29 practice opportunities in the fall to keep making those decisions and finalizing going into fall camp.
"So everything moves fast, but you've got to figure those things out."
Here are some keys to Florida's offense next year.
Run, Driskel, run
Look for the read-option to come back at Florida in 2014. It won't take Roper long to see that Driskel's best success as a college QB came mostly on the ground.
One of former offensive coordinator Brent Pease's goals for 2013 was to get Driskel comfortable as a pocket passer, but it didn't happen in his injury-shortened season. In his two full games, Driskel ran 17 times for just 38 yards (2.2 yards per carry). Then he was hurt a few minutes into Game 3. It was a lost season. But if those first two games were any indication, the Gators weren't planning to use as much of the read-option that Driskel had good success with in teaming with tailback Mike Gillislee in 2012.
Look for Florida to turn Driskel loose, hope he stays healthy and not worry about redshirting incoming freshman Will Grier or a possible second QB signee who would likely be a dual-threat athlete.
Pray for the offensive line
This is where it all starts, and there's no doubt Florida has a lot of room for improvement. With D.J. Humphries, Max Garcia, Tyler Moore, Chaz Green and Trenton Brown, Florida has the makings of a capable line. But only one of those five -- Garcia -- played a full season in 2012. The injury bug hit the OL as hard as any position, so it will be critical for this group to miss as little time as the injury gods will allow. There is some size and talent on the bench, but zero starting experience.
Changing to more of a spread offense should benefit this unit more than any other on the offense, as it struggled mightily in pass protection throughout the last two seasons. The comparative simplicity of zone blocking will also help more of Florida's inexperienced players get on the field sooner. The Gators redshirted three offensive linemen in 2013 and hope to sign four or five more this year.
Another technique -- cut blocking -- could be incorporated next season, depending on Roper's scheme and the yet-to-be-hired offensive line coach. After Florida lost to Georgia Southern in November, Muschamp lamented how the cut block "negates talent" of the defense. In 2014, the Gators might prefer to be on the other side of that equation.
Any receivers who can get open?
This has been one of the most confounding problems at UF since Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez thrived as Tim Tebow's favorite targets in 2009. There are plenty of decorated recruits on the roster. The wideouts have had proven position coaches such as Pease and Joker Phillips mentoring them. In steps Roper, who has produced 1,000-yard receivers in four of six seasons at recruiting-challenged Duke. It's time for some of Florida's talented youngsters to step forward and demand the ball, and there is at least one starting job available.
The tight end position took a huge step backward when Jordan Reed left early after a solid 2012 season. Florida lacked any semblance of a down-the-middle pass-catching threat in 2013, as Tevin Westbrook and Clay Burton combined for four catches. The Gators have commitments from three TE/H-backs, so don't be surprised if a freshman emerges.
Bigger-play running backs
Tailback is one position that won't keep Roper awake at night, as the Gators have a bevy of talented runners. Florida entered the 2013 season expecting Matt Jones to become one of the SEC's best running backs. And while hopes are still very high for Jones, the Gators believe they found another featured back in Kelvin Taylor after Jones was lost for the season with a knee injury. Mack Brown gives UF a reliable backup, and the coaching staff is excited about the potential of Adam Lane, who redshirted last season.
Where Florida's tailbacks can improve is in hitting more big plays. Taylor averaged 4.6 yards a carry and Brown averaged 3.7. But explosive plays are more likely to come from Jones or little-used Valdez Showers, who averaged 8.6 yards per carry. The Gators are also hoping to sign a speed back who could play right away and complement the group of grinding runners already on the roster.
It might sound silly for him to laugh off a word used to describe an offense ranking 12th or worse in the SEC in scoring (23.8 points per game), passing (191.8) and total offense (403), but Brown sees more than just stats and believes the best is coming for Florida's offense.
"I feel like if the running game is successful every game and we can control the clock, we can do what we planned for before the season: Be in Atlanta [for the SEC Championship Game] and then end the season in Cali. [for the BCS National Championship]."
Added starting running back Matt Jones: "We know as running backs that we have to contribute because without us, our offense kind of goes sideways."
For all the talk about the loss of starting quarterback Jeff Driskel and what Tyler Murphy has to do in his place, if Florida is going to play for an SEC title, it's going to have to strap onto the back of its running game just like last season.
This wasn't much of a passing team in 2012, and the first four games of the season have shown that 2013 won't be much different. Fans want to see more passing and more explosion, but the bottom line is that this offense is built to be a hard-nosed, physical running team first and will throw second … or even third.
Just look at Florida's ugly loss to Miami. People piled on Driskel for his three turnovers and indecision, but check out the running game. The Gators averaged just 2.8 yards per carry, the lowest average since gaining just 1.9 yards per carry in last season's 17-9 loss to Georgia.
"For us to be successful, we need a guy -- or guys -- to be able to make some big plays in the running [game] and hit some bug runs for us," coach Will Muschamp said.
Heading into Saturday's game against Arkansas, Muschamp might finally see the return of his feature back in Jones. Hampered by a viral infection during preseason camp, Jones said he didn't feel close to 100 percent until last week's Kentucky game, where he rushed for a career-high 176 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 28 carries.
"It felt good being the workhorse of the team," said Jones, who leads Florida with 272 rushing yards.
"I have a good feeling about it."
But he won't have to shoulder all of the responsibility. He has a solid sidekick in Brown and feels confident in walk-on surprise Mark Herndon and freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane. While we've seen a majority of Brown and Jones (combing for 123 carries), Brown expects to see all five backs get more time.
"That's real dangerous," Brown said.
Even with Driskel under center last season, the Gators ranked third in the SEC in rushing, averaging 187.7 yards per game. With or without him this season, the running game was going to be the focus of this offense, as the Gators look for more consistency in the passing game.
In three games, Florida has rolled with its running game, but defenses are going to get better from here on out.
"When [defenses] aren't worried about playing the run, you have some issues offensively," Muschamp said. "Especially with how we're built at this point, we need to have teams respect our rushing game."
Florida has rushed for more than 200 yards in every game except the loss to Miami, but Jones still thinks this running game isn't getting its due. But he expects that will change. Couple his health with the depth in the backfield, and Jones expects to see the running game drain opponents as the season continues.
"We're kind of overlooked right now," he said. "We're kind of in the shadows, but we do wear a lot of teams down. They get really tired of tackling [the running backs].
"We wear people out when we need to."
As the Gators begin preparations today for the Aug. 31 season opener against Toledo, the depth chart looks like this:
Projected starter Matt Jones has yet to practice because of a viral infection.
The next player in line is sophomore Mark Herndon, a former walk-on special teams player who was awarded a scholarship on Tuesday.
Behind Herndon is redshirt sophomore Valdez Showers, who was a safety until last week.
Then you finally find Kelvin Taylor, the nation’s No. 1 running back recruit and the son of former UF standout Fred Taylor, and fellow freshman Adam Lane.
It’s that last part that’s the most surprising considering there was some thought that Taylor, who enrolled in January, was going to beat out Jones for the starting job during the spring. Instead, he and Lane will get just scraps of playing time because they have yet to prove their reliability.
"No. 1 is ball security," Muschamp said. "You’ve got to take care of the football. That’s the number one thing. They’re very talented runners [but] so much more goes into it other than just running the football. … We like to make sure the quarterback is protected.
"They’ve got to take a step. Very pleased with both guys. They’re going to help us this year. How much, their role, will depend on how they continue to develop. It’s a long season."
Obviously the Gators want the 6-foot-2, 226-pound Jones back as soon as possible. He underwent blood work on Monday and was out on the practice field for 10-15 minutes on Tuesday but still has not been cleared to practice. Muschamp said UF is preparing to play the Rockets without Jones, who had a fantastic spring and was named a preseason All-SEC third-team selection.
"All I know is he is progressing very well," said Muschamp, who is scheduled to meet with the media on Friday and provide another update. "I get a daily update. He feels good. He’s doing more and more every day from a workout standpoint, and that’s all I know. We’re playing it by ear and every day we have a staff meeting, we have an injury report and he [the trainer] gives me an update."
Brown has been a disappointment since he signed, mainly because he was hobbled by a hamstring injury and a broken ankle. His biggest contribution came in last season’s game against Texas A&M when he carried the ball four times for 11 yards to help the Gators run out the final 3:13 and preserve a 20-17 victory.
Herndon is the surprise considering he has played in just six games (all last season) on special teams. He ran for 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns as a high school senior and Muschamp mentioned him as a standout in the spring, but to be the No. 2 back heading into the season opener is not something for which Muschamp would have hoped.
"Coach Muschamp always talks about ‘man down, man up’ and I just felt like it was an opportunity," Herndon said. "It (Jones’ viral infection) was really unfortunate. Me and Matt are teammates, so we talk and hang out. I was sad, but if he’s down, I’ve got to step up because the team needs me.
"That’s what I did. I tried to push Mack Brown. He’s the No. 1, so I tried to push him and keep him on his toes. I didn’t want anybody slacking."
Showers fell behind junior Jabari Gorman and redshirt freshman Marcus Maye in the battle for playing time at safety and was moved to running back last week. It’s not unfamiliar territory because he was a running back and cornerback at Detroit Madison, where he rushed for 3,596 yards and 49 touchdowns in his final two seasons.
Showers was heavily involved with the first-team offense, especially in the passing game, during UF’s open practices and Muschamp said the move is permanent.
"He's got great top-end speed. He's got really good ball skills," Muschamp said. "He can do a lot of different things for us as far as lining up at receiver, lining up in the backfield. A tough guy to account for a defensive coordinator. Been very pleased with what he's added for us offensively."
Muschamp will be more pleased when Jones returns. If that doesn’t happen within the next day or so, it might be too late for Jones to be prepared to play against Toledo. His season debut might then have to come against Miami on Sept. 7.
"Any time you have something like this and you’re in uncharted waters and you’re uncertain of it, you always plan without the player," Muschamp said. "If the player’s there, it’s great. That’s gravy for everybody."
The 5-foot-9, 171-pound Patton doesn’t really fit into coach Will Muschamp’s philosophy that bigger is better. Not just on the line of scrimmage, either. Big receivers. Big defensive backs. Big linebackers.
"This is a big man’s league," he said. "When you go pay to watch a boxing match, you don’t go watch the featherweights fight. You go watch heavyweights fight. This is a heavyweight league.
"So we need have a big, physical team. You can still be really fast, but you better be big and physical if you want to win in this league right now."
Muschamp is in his third season and working on his fourth signing class, and he has certainly made the Gators a bigger, more physical team in that short period of time. To see the difference, look at UF’s roster from 2009. The Gators had five starters or key contributors who were 5-9 or shorter: Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Ahmad Black, Markihe Anderson and Brandon James.
This year’s team has only one starter that small: 5-9 safety Cody Riggs. Patton is a role player (he’s the jet sweep guy) and the shortest player on scholarship is 5-7 freshman running back Adam Lane -- who weighs 222 pounds.
Muschamp’s philosophy goes further than just the size of the players. He wants the bulk of his 85-man roster to be comprised of what he calls big-skill positions: offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers and tight ends. He wants 50. Right now he has 42 (see breakdown below).
Muschamp wants 15-17 offensive linemen, and the Gators are close to that number. They have five scholarship tight ends, too. The defensive line is where the problem is. The Gators are short on ends, especially speed rushers. There are eight scholarship defensive tackles, but only three have played in a game (Dominique Easley, Leon Orr and Damien Jacobs), and just two bucks (hybrid defensive end/linebacker).
It’ll take at least a couple more signing classes for the Gators to be as stocked along the defensive line as Muschamp would like. Muschamp believes long-term success at Florida -- and therefore the SEC -- depends on beefing up those defensive numbers.
And not just to compete with Alabama and Nick Saban, either.
"When big guys run out of gas, they’re done," Muschamp said. "We don’t ever want our big guys up front to play more than six or eight snaps in a row and have the intensity you’ve got to play with to be successful in this league. So you can’t ever have enough defensive linemen or pass rushers, especially the way the game’s going.
"You look in our league at Missouri and Kentucky and Tennessee, a lot of schools are going to a little bit of a Big 12 model, like Texas A&M, where they’re spreading the field, and you can’t ever have enough guys that can play in space and rush the passer. The most exerting thing in football is rushing the passer. Those guys are battling against a 315-pound guy and trying to push the pocket, so you can’t ever have enough of those guys."
Here’s the breakdown of what Muschamp calls the big-skill players:
Ideal number: 15-17
Number on the roster: 14. Tyler Moore, Quinteze Williams, Rod Johnson, Octavius Jackson, Cameron Dillard, Trip Thurman, Jon Halapio, D.J. Humphries, Jonotthan Harrison, Chaz Green, Max Garcia, Trenton Brown, Ian Silberman, Kyle Koehne.
Comment: The Gators will lose four players to graduation but have four offensive line commits for 2014, three of whom weigh more than 300 pounds. The line has gotten bigger, stronger and more physical since Muschamp called them soft at the end of his first season.
Ideal number: 8-10
Number on the roster: 8. Damien Jacobs, Joey Ivie, Leon Orr, Darious Cummings, Jay-nard Bostwick, Caleb Brantley, Antonio Riles, Dominique Easley.
Comment: Not a lot of experience here, but the four freshmen (Ivie, Bostwick, Brantley and Riles) will gain valuable experience as part of the rotation this season.
Ideal number: 6-8
Number on roster: 4. Alex McCalister, Jonathan Bullard, Jordan Sherit, Bryan Cox.
Comment: Easley also can play end. This is perhaps the most flexible position, with several players having the ability to play inside on passing downs to get the best pass rushers on the field.
Ideal number: 4-6
Number on roster: 2. Dante Fowler, Ronald Powell.
Comment: This position also needs to be beefed up quickly, with Powell likely leaving after this year if he has a good season. Some flexibility here, too, because Cox and McCalister could spend time here.
Ideal number: 9-12
Number on roster: 9. Michael Taylor, Matt Rolin, Jeremi Powell, Jarrad Davis, Neiron Ball, Darrin Kitchens, Daniel McMillian, Alex Anzalone, Antonio Morrison.
Comment: UF has one bona fide stud (Morrison) and a mix of veteran role players and freshmen. McMillian is a player to watch. He could become a starter by midseason. This is an important position group because it produces a lot of special teams players.
Ideal number: 3-5
Number on roster: 5. Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook, Kent Taylor, Colin Thompson, Trevon Young.
Comment: A lot of players, but little production so far. Burton, Westbrook and Thompson are mainly blockers, but there’s optimism that Thompson can develop into someone who can work the middle of the field.
Now that Florida nears the end of the second week of preseason practices, coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease have begun making adjustments to the offense.
The Purifoy move has been planned, but the others are partly because there's still no word on when Jones (viral infection) will be cleared to resume practicing.
"We met Saturday night after the scrimmage, as a staff, [and] we kind of talked about our roster," Muschamp said. "My question to our staff is, 'Who can you count on? Who can we win with? Who do you have confidence in?' It's not always necessarily Aug. 31 [for the season opener]. It's throughout the entire season and understanding that maybe some of the younger guys don't know what to do right now, but athletically, they are guys we need to be coaching and developing for the season."
Two of those guys are the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Taylor and the 5-7, 222-pound Lane. Redshirt junior Mack Brown is working as UF's No. 1 tailback, but Taylor and Lane are getting additional reps. It's especially beneficial for Lane, who would have been fourth on the depth chart had Jones been healthy. Instead, he's getting the work that likely would have fallen to Taylor as the No. 3 back.
"[Taylor] put it on the ground last night, and that's something we can’t have happen," Muschamp said. "But, again, very pleased with his progress. He's very quick in his lower body, gets it north and south, and he runs the way we want it to be run at Florida.
"Adam's done some nice things. He's a guy that’s really a tough guy to tackle. There's not a lot of soft spots on him."
The Gators are also taking a look at the 5-11, 190-pound Showers, who wasn't making much headway at safety. He was a running back and cornerback at Detroit Madison, where he rushed for 3,596 yards and 49 touchdowns in his final two seasons.
Muschamp said he envisions Showers filling the same role that Omarius Hines did the past two seasons.
"We experimented with it on the scrimmage, and I thought he did some nice things carrying the ball," Muschamp said. "Vertically he can do some good things in the run game, and we're going to look at that over the next three, four days and sort of see where that takes us."
That's additional insurance should Jones not be ready for the Aug. 31 season opener against Toledo. Muschamp said Jones has begun some cardio work but added there's still no timetable for Jones' return to practice. He didn't rule out the possibility of Jones missing more than one game.
Purifoy's move to offense was planned before preseason practices began. He was to spend the first 12 practices on defense so the staff could get a look at the young receivers and see if the veterans had improved. Muschamp said they have, particularly redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar, senior Trey Burton and senior Solomon Patton.
In addition, he said he's pleased with the development of freshmen Demarcus Robinson, who enrolled early and participated in spring practice, and Ahmad Fulwood, who at 6-4 gives the Gators a big downfield target.
The 6-1, 185-pound Purifoy spent half of spring practice at receiver. The move was done to take advantage of his athleticism and ball skills, but he's limited in what he can do, because he's still learning the offense and route adjustments. He saw spot duty at receiver late last season but pretty much just ran fly routes.
If Muschamp's praise for the receivers is warranted, then Purifoy might not spend much time on offense this fall.
Not after the way Mack Brown performed in the spring and during the offseason. He might not be able to replace Jones, but he’s certainly capable of being the Gators’ top back -- even if Jones’ absence were to bleed into the regular season.
It’s an opportunity that many people -- including Brown -- thought would have come much sooner.
He signed with Florida in 2010 as one of the nation’s most talented players -- the No. 34 overall player in the ESPN rankings and the No. 4 running back -- but never quite lived up to that hype. Injuries (a broken ankle and a strained hamstring), a poor attitude and a less-than-intense work ethic limited the 5-foot-11, 213-pound redshirt junior to a combined 40 carries for 167 yards from 2010 to 2012.
The arrival of Kelvin Taylor, the nation’s top-ranked running back and the son of former UF standout Fred Taylor, sparked Brown’s turnaround in the spring. He beat out Taylor for the No. 2 spot behind the 6-2, 226-pound Jones, who had the coaches excited about his potential after a fantastic spring. But now Brown is the No. 1 back for the foreseeable future.
"I just want to show everybody [and] really prove to myself that I still can do what I know I can do," said Brown, who had 25 carries for 102 yards last season. "As far as talent-wise, last couple years I felt like I really couldn’t run like I wanted to [because of injuries], so this whole offseason I just tried to get better and improve in every aspect of the game."
Behind Brown are Taylor, freshman Adam Lane, and walk-on Mark Herndon. None of them has carried the ball in a game.
That makes the timetable for Jones’ return pretty significant, but Muschamp said there’s no way to know when Jones will be able to practice. Jones had to be hospitalized and, according to teammates, has lost weight. Muschamp said Jones is recovering.
"We’re in a little bit of uncharted waters here exactly about him coming back and when that’s going to happen and how good of health he’s going to be in," Muschamp said. “I don’t know any of that right now. It’s very uncertain. It’s very frustrating, for him first of all, and for us a little bit.
"Matt’s going to be fine. I do know that."
Regardless of which player is the Gators’ top tailback, the goal is still the same: 1,000 yards. Mike Gillislee did it last season, making him just the eighth player in school history to rush for at least 1,000 yards. That has been a rare accomplishment in the program’s 106-year history, but one that Muschamp said should become pretty standard from now on.
"That’s not going to be the exception any more at Florida," Muschamp said. "That’s going to be the norm.
"I’m excited moving forward with our style."
If Jones or Brown or Taylor or any of the other backs reach 1,000 yards, it will mark the first time in school history the Gators have had players rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. Emmitt Smith and Errict Rhett each had two 1,000-yard seasons at Florida, but they each had a season with less than 1,000 yards in between.
No. 33 Mack Brown
Redshirt junior running back
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With tight end Jordan Reed, the Gators’ leading receiver last season, headed for the NFL, Driskel has to find someone else upon whom he can rely for a sure completion and positive yardage.
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease wants him to start looking at the guys lined up beside and behind him.
Pease said the Gators’ running backs were not used enough in the passing game last season. Not counting Trey Burton and Omarius Hines -- who were utility players who lined up in the backfield as well as at tight end and receiver -- UF’s backs last season combined to catch just 26 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown.
A: Michel is a big-time prospect and has five-star potential. He mentioned on Facebook on Monday that Florida is in his top five along with Miami (Fla), Georgia, Notre Dame and Florida State. However, Michel said in a story by DawgNation's Kipp Adams on Tuesday that Alabama, not Florida, was in his top five along with the other schools mentioned on Facebook.
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Key holes to fill
The Gators lost key personnel along the offensive line, wide receiver, linebacker, running back and secondary and are hoping to replenish their talent with junior college transfers and incoming freshmen.
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Dave (New Jersey): Mike you say we are done with our class at 26? Don't we have 8 EEs that can date back to next year giving us another 6-7 spots open in this class? We lost a lot of bodies so the staff must get at least 31 in this class IMO. Thoughts?
The Gators will try and sign several more players, but Muschamp has gone on record before saying he’s not going to sign players just to fill out a class. I anticipate only two to three more commitments, if that. UF is still after DT Jarran Reed, Jay-nard Bostwick, Montravius Adams, Elijah Daniel, Jason Hatcher, Chris Jones, James Clark, Alex Collins, Jalen Ramsey, Kennard Swanson and Quinton Powell. If Muschamp can get some of those guys, fine, but if not, he won’t just sign guys so he can fill out the class.
RemmyR (Maple Shade, N.J.): Just want to say thanks to you for dropping UF science on us every week!!!
You’re welcome. I enjoy interacting with fans. You guys are the lifeblood of what I do so these chats are the least I can do.
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Andy Katz's 3-Point Shot
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35