Senior running back Mike Gillislee has already garnered a few national headlines with strong running performances as the 2012 season begins to gain traction. Gillislee has been so solid in the early going that heading into Florida’s showdown with Kentucky on Saturday, the man who patiently waited three years behind speedsters Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps even was leading the Southeastern Conference in rushing yards.
However, a strained groin, while not a major problem, has proven to be quite a nuisance for the star runner. For the Gators coaching staff and fans, the small injury has brought a larger issue to the fore of the program: Going into the game against Kentucky, neither true freshman Matt Jones nor redshirt sophomore Mack Brown had stepped up and taken on the all-important role of backing up a gimpy Gilly.
That all changed in Saturday’s 38-0 shellacking of the ‘Cats.
With the Gators up big early, Florida coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease were finally afforded an opportunity to put the ball in the hands of their two backup running backs.
Matt Jones, just a year removed from Seffner (Fla.) Armwood High School, looked tough running inside the tackles on 10 rushes for 45 yards.
However, many of Jones’ attempts were successful due to the 6-foot-2, 226-pound tailback’s aggressive, if not smart, running style.
Foremost, he still needs to improve his vision out of the backfield. On several of his carries, he cut right when he should have bolted left, or he slashed left when he should have barreled straight ahead.
He has all the talent in the world and was given many of the team’s carries in the fourth quarter when backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett replaced Jeff Driskel.
After not getting a touch in the first half of Saturday’s game, it was redshirt sophomore Mack Brown who not only ran with the same intensity as Jones, but with more of the vision the team has enjoyed out of Gillislee this season. Brown’s four rushing attempts went off for a total of 31 yards, good for 7.8 yards per carry.
Not bad at all.
With their bye week coming up, the Gators now have the advantage of additional time to prepare and to practice for one of the most talented and disciplined teams in the nation in LSU. Altogether, two weeks to watch film, lift weights, sweat, scream and run plays.
Jones and Brown also have two more weeks to prove which one of them has got Gillislee’s back.