Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators Backfield

Stephen Sheehan@@StephenPSheehanCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2012

Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators Backfield

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    After relying on speedsters Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps since 2008, Florida's backfield will feature a mix of both old and new faces in 2012. 

    Senior Mike Gillislee headlines the group of relative unknowns, but Gators fans should be familiar with the team's projected starter. 

    Often overshadowed by his dangerously fast teammates, Gillislee has quietly averaged 6.3 yards per carry on just 145 carries. 

    The group also includes an imposing freshman in Matt Jones, a former 4-star recruit in Mack Brown and a thumper in fullback Hunter Joyer. 

    With an underwhelming cast of receivers, the running game will have to carry UF's offense this season. 

    Let's take a look at who to watch for in the Gators backfield this season.

Hunter Joyer (Sophomore)

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    Playing fullback is a lost art in today's game, but sophomore Hunter Joyer reminds us of what it takes to play the position. 

    The 5'10", 249-pound fire hydrant arrived at Florida as the nation's top fullback in 2011 and didn't disappoint in his debut season.

    As a freshman, Joyer played in 13 games and often paved the way for Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps in the run game.

    The former Tampa Catholic star also displayed some impressive ball-carrying skills of his own, racking up 82 yards on 18 carries and two scores.

    Now in his second year in the system, Joyer should continue to evolve as an important element of Florida's pro-style attack.

    Whether he's lead blocking for Mike Gillislee or pounding the ball in short-yardage situations, Joyer will be critical to the offense's success.  

Mike Gillislee (Senior)

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    Mike Gillislee doesn't say a whole lot; He lets his play do the talking. 

    The soft-spoken back may not be on the national radar, but he's been impressive in limited action through his first three seasons. 

    Combining 4.5 speed with his 5'11", 209-pound frame, Gillislee is a smooth runner who shows a solid burst and ability to pick up tough yards. 

    He never got the opportunities he deserved while playing behind the dangerous duo of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, but he should be the bell cow in 2012. 

    With a big senior season, Gillislee should put himself in position to be the next Florida back to move on to the NFL. 

Matt Jones (Freshman)

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    Over the past few years, many Gators fans—myself included—grew weary of seeing Chris Rainey stuffed on dive plays up the middle. 

    Luckily for the Gator Nation, the team finally has a power back capable of punishing defenders in the form of freshman Matt Jones. 

    Checking in at a menacing 6'2", 226 pounds, the former Armwood High (Fla.) star is the most physically imposing back the Gators have had in years. 

    Jones will probably play second fiddle to Gillislee early on, but I expect him to see a lot of action in short-yardage and goal-line situations. 

    By adding a true power back like Jones, Florida may finally have its own beast to rival SEC foes Alabama and LSU.  

Mack Brown (Redshirt Sophomore)

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    If there's one player who has the upside to become an impact player, it might be redshirt sophomore Mack Brown. 

    Blessed with an ideal frame (5'11", 214 pounds) and 4.38 speed, Brown has all the physical tools to succeed in the SEC. 

    Unfortunately for the Georgia native, the opportunities just haven't been there at Florida. 

    His career has been marred by hamstring and leg injuries, but he heads into the 2012 season healthy. 

    According to Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post, Brown will be next in the pecking order after Gillislee, which suggests he's in line for a heavier workload in his third season with the team. 

Trey Burton (Junior)

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    It's nearly impossible to pinpoint what position Trey Burton plays. 

    During his time at Florida, the 6'3", 228-pounder has lined up all over the offense, mostly as a dual-threat quarterback and receiver. 

    However, the junior spent more time in the backfield in 2011 and is listed as a running back on the team's website. 

    Burton doesn't necessarily fit the mold of a traditional back, but its impossible to overlook his production. 

    In just two years, the playmaker has rushed for 474 yards and 14 touchdowns, caught 51 passes for 359 yards and two scores and even completed eight passes for 99 yards. 

    Big play Trey certainly isn't the prototype for the position, but the Gators would be wise to feature him as a specialty player.