With only two scholarship running backs returning for spring football practice, the Gators needed help in the backfield.
So Will Muschamp and Brent Pease decided to get a little creative.
Wide receiver Omarius Hines and linebacker Chris Johnson both moved over to running back to see what they could do, and so far the transition has gone incredibly smoothly.
Senior Mike Gillislee has a firm grasp on the starting job, and redshirt sophomore Mack Brown has played well as his backup so far this spring.
Behind those two, Florida has turned to the new duo, sophomore Hunter Joyer and junior Trey Burton to split the rest of the carries.
Muschamp said Hines, who is entering his senior season, needs to break out this year. He’s a terrific athlete with great size at 6 foot 2, 223 pounds.
“He’s an explosive athlete,” the second-year coach said. “We need to get more out of him as a football player, and that’s including on special teams and everything we do.”
Hines flashed his strength and ability to run between the tackles in Florida’s two open practices at the beginning of spring practice. That’s something the Gators have been sorely lacking for the past few years.
Having a big, physical player like Hines has given the defense a different look.
“He’s big, really big. He’s hard to tackle,” senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. “He runs really hard, him and (Chris) “Juice” Johnson. They’re both running very hard for us right now.”
But Hines hasn’t been able to spend all his time focusing on running back. Three scholarship receivers have been out with injuries, leaving the Gators razor thin at receiver.
After pounding it in between the tackles, Hines will often split out wide and run routes in his old position.
He’s done it like a champ, according to teammates.
“I’ve just seen great effort, great focus from him,” junior center Jon Harrison said. “Whatever position he gets moved to – wide receiver, tight end, running back – he really just works hard and does the best he can at whatever position he’s in.”
That the fifth-year player is shining in practice isn’t surprising to his teammates or the fans who have been calling for Hines to have a bigger role the past few years.
Making sure what has gotten him the hype this spring will continue into the fall is the key. That’s his effort in practice.
“I wasn’t surprised because I’ve known him to be a hard worker,” Harrison said.