GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s depth chart at running back looks like this: a career backup, a walk-on and a former safety.
With a beefed-up offensive line and a few new faces in the backfield, the 10th-ranked Gators were supposed to have an improved, maybe even feared, ground game this season.
But with starter Matt Jones sidelined because of a viral infection and freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane continuing to have ball security issues, Florida’s rushing attack is alarming for all the wrong reasons.
“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,” coach Will Muschamp said. “If the player’s there, it’s great. That’s gravy for everybody.”
It’s unclear when Jones will return.
The 6-foot-2, 226-pound sophomore was diagnosed early this month, lost what several teammates called significant weight and has missed nearly three weeks of fall practice.
Jones had blood work done Monday, Muschamp said, and is working out regularly. But getting no on-the-field work is making it more and more likely that Jones will miss Florida’s Aug. 31 season opener against Toledo.
“All I know is he is progressing very well,” Muschamp said. “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 gives me an update.”
Without Jones, the Gators have turned to Mack Brown, a fourth-year junior who has carried 40 times for 167 yards in three seasons. Brown was a highly regarded recruit in 2009, but has been one of the program’s biggest disappointments since.