UF Spring Preview: Running Backs

The Florida Gators became relevant again in 2012 with a 11-2 record, but the team took on some losses as key juniors declared early for the NFL Draft. Along with the seniors who graduated, the number of player departures will change the make-up of the 2013 squad.

Gator Country takes a look at each position on the team heading into spring football and breakdown the strength and weaknesses at each spot.

For the second installment, GC examines the running back position for the Gators.

Projected Depth Chart:

Starter—Matt Jones

2nd String—Mack Brown

3rd String—Kelvin Taylor

4th String—Adam Lane

Analysis: Mike Gillislee put the Florida running game back on the map with his 1,152 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns during the season. More importantly, his physical, downfield running style set the precedent for future Gators running backs as well as freshman Matt Jones.

Jones, who showed significant promise late in the season, is projected to be the main running back heading into spring practice. At 6-foot-2, 226-pounds, Jones is one of the bigger running backs in the conference and will be tough to bring down because of his size alone.

However, he showed promising vision and running ability in the last few weeks of the season. Jones finished out the year with 146 yards on 16 carries against Jacksonville State and Florida State, including a crucial 32-yard touchdown run to seal the win for Florida.

Jones runs with a lot of power and if he can improve on his cuts, similar to how Mike Gillislee ran, then Jones could turn into a star in the SEC. The future looks promising for Jones as he prepares for his second season with the Gators.

Behind Jones, Mack Brown could still factor in for some playing time, but he has yet to really break through on the depth chart during his time at Florida, even being beaten out by Jones, who was a freshman in 2012.

Because of his seniority, Brown may start out as the backup in the spring, but it is likely that the talented two incoming freshmen will push for more playing time as the team’s backup running backs.

Kelvin Taylor, who early enrolled this January, should get plenty of opportunities this spring. Considered one of the top running backs in high school, Taylor runs a lot like Jones. He has exceptional balance and power when running downfield. He won’t be the fastest running back, but he’s a tough and gritty runner who will continue to push for extra yards after the first contact.

Adam Lane won’t enroll until the summer, but figures to compete for some playing time this next season. At 5-foot-7, 215-pounds, Lane is the smaller of the four backs, but has been labeled as a Maurice Jones-Drew-type running back.

Since he doesn’t arrive on campus until the summer, he will be a semester behind all of the other running backs and it may take him longer to get into the mix. However, it’s believed that Muschamp will utilize a running back by committee strategy with Jones, Taylor and Lane, so the Winter Haven native could get a good amount of reps in 2013.

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Drew is a senior at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. When not at school, Drew resides in Lakeland, Fla. Ever since working on his high school yearbook, Drew has had an interest in pursuing a journalism career after college. In addition to being Editor-in-Chief of his school newspaper, The Samford Crimson, Drew has also been with Gator Country as an intern for one year. He enjoys the finer things in life like Tampa Bay Rays baseball and always making sure to make fun of the Atlanta Braves to Andrew Spivey’s face.