Over the next 24 days, Gator Country will preview the players that make up the 2013 Florida Gators football team as we inch closer and closer to the season.
Each day we will count down using the player whose jersey number corresponds with how many days there are left until Florida kicks off against Toledo in the Swamp on August 31.
Today we take a look at two players with the second being sophomore running back Matt Jones.
Jones was a highly recruited running back from Seffner Armwood High School in Seffner, Florida. Jones chose Florida over offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Tennessee, South Carolina, Southern Cal and Wisconsin.
Immediately upon enrolling, Jones inserted himself in the battle to back up Mike Gillislee. He eventually surpassed Mack Brown on the depth chart and earned his first start in the third game of the season against Tennessee. Jones played in 12-of-13 games as a freshman and finished third on the team in rushing yards.
Jones is a physical runner who delivers a hit, rather than taking one. He is built like a linebacker but runs and cuts like a true tailback. Jones doesn’t have great speed but is fast enough to breakaway from defenses like we saw on his 32-yard touchdown against Florida State last season.
Jones is a one-cut runner who doesn’t waste time dancing in the backfield. He is patient in the backfield but once he picks a hole, it’s full speed for Jones until he plows into a defender or finds the endzone.
Being so big makes Jones very difficult to tackle. He routinely bounces off initial contact and good luck if you’re a defender trying to arm tackle him.
At times Jones can run too upright and not get behind his pads enough. He showed some good things as a blocker last season, but you would like to see him continue to progress as a blocker moving into his sophomore season.
What to Expect
Jones is sidelined right now after a gastrointestinal infection caused him to miss the start of fall camp. He is already back around the team and recovering in the team facilities. He lost 8-10 pounds but that should be easy to put back on once he regains his strength and can get back into the weight room.
Once Jones comes back, the starting job is his to lose. Jones has high goals for this season – he told Jon Halapio that he wants to set the UF single season rushing record (1,599 yards by Emmitt Smith) – and with the amount of carries he will get this season, that may just be a realistic goal.
Expect to see Jones get 25-30 carries a game and become the focal point of Florida’s offense in 2013.