Florida Football: Mack Brown's Performance Suggests Gators RBs Among SEC's Best

Allison BankoFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2013

The pre-game hype for Florida's season centered around Toledo's uptempo offense, but Gators RB Mack Brown showed he was what needed to be stopped come game time.  


UF's redshirt junior was filling in for sophomore Matt Jones, who is currently coming off a nasty viral infection. Coach Will Muschamp said he expects Jones to return for next week's road contest against Miami, but after the show Brown put on in Saturday's 24-6 victory, he proved Florida's coaching staff doesn't have to rush (no pun intended) getting Jones back. 


When Brown returns from the disabled list the Gators will be able to rotate three strong running backs including Kelvin Taylor, son of Gator great Fred Taylor, who averaged racked up 43 yards on 8.6 yards per carry in his Florida debut. This kind of depth could cement Brent Pease's running back stable as one of the SEC's best. 


Brown's fast start was huge for the Gators as it ended the slow start trend from 2012.  Last season Florida was infamous for its fourth-quarter tendencies, securing eight of eleven wins from behind. Crazy enough, Brown's 1-yard rushing touchdown with 6:46 left in the first quarter, the first of his career, marked the first time Florida scored in the opening drive of a season opener since 2009.  


If that's any indication of what's to come, Florida's on track for more fast starts in the future—proving the Gators were getting their minds right in camp, targeting at least one of last season's weaknesses. Penalties are another story. 


Brown's ability to stay hot throughout the first half was crucial, especially with his mad 14-yard touchdown in the second quarter. On his run, he exhibited good speed, field awareness and balance spinning into the end zone. It's worth watching again. 


By halftime, Brown boasted 97 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. To put that in perspective, the redshirt junior had a career total of 167 rushing yards coming into this season. At the close of the game, Brown had eclipsed his 102 rushing-yard total for 2012 with 112 versus the Rockets. 


OK, it's Toledo. But this could be Brown's year.


I'm not saying Brown should replace Jones by any means. UF will surely need Jones moving deeper into its season against tougher opponents, like guys who have faced SEC teams before 2013. However, Florida has a solid running back in Brown in the meantime. The Gators can have confidence with him on the field while taking their time easing Jones back into play.