Florida Football: Re-Evaluating Gators' RB Rotation After Matt Jones' Return

Allison BankoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2013

Sep 7, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel (6) hands off to running back Matt Jones (24) against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half of the game at Sun Life Stadium. Miami defeated Florida 21-16.  Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Florida better hope that running back Matt Jones was mistaken.

Moments after Miami's upset victory on Saturday, a sweaty, somber Jones looked into GatorVision's camera and said, "As a team, we tried to fight and fight. We gave it our all."

If Saturday set the stage for the Gators' "all," then it'll be an excruciatingly painful season for Florida. On top of that, if Jones truly dished out his "all" at Sun Life Stadium, the projected positive state of UF's running back slot is in limbo as well.

We got our first real glimpse into Jones' state during the Miami gamehis first start of the season due to a viral infection that previously had sidelined him. However, he ended up as the centerpiece of an early play that made Florida fans wince. 

GatorZone.com's Scott Carter wrote about the impact of Jones' opening-drive fumble:

His fumble came on Florida’s opening drive when Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman popped the ball from Jones’ grasp with a hit from his helmet. Miami’s Curtis Porter recovered at the 50-yard line and nine plays later the Hurricanes scored to take a lead they never relinquished.

Following his team's loss, UF coach Will Muschamp shared his thoughts on the fumble with GatorVision. "We've given Matt plenty of contact going into that situation, so I think that was a good hit on their part," he said.

Muschamp's comment implies that Jones was indeed ready to go at Miamithat he was prepared. This isn't to say that Jones flashed his full potential in his first showing of the season. However, it does beg the question, will the Gators be able to lean on Jones as heavily as they initially anticipated? 

In his season debut, Jones had 18 rushes for 47 yards, averaging 2.6 yards per carry. Last season, when he played behind Mike Gillislee, he averaged 5.3 YPC. 

"My first game back was good, I just need to keep getting better with the running backs," Jones told GatorVision.

Jones is in good company with top RB performers Mack Brown, Valdez Showers and Kelvin Taylor.

Brown shined as the starter versus Toledo. Against Miami, he rushed 10 times for 29 yards, averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Showers rushed four times for 27 yards on Saturday, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.

Taylor, son of former UF and NFL player Fred Taylor, didn't play in Week 2 despite an impressive performance against Toledo. The Gainesville Sun's Zack Abolverdi noted Taylor's effectiveness.

Given the collective performance of Florida's running backs, does it make sense for Jones to still get most of the playing time? Should Brown be No. 1? Should the two split the load 50-50? Should Florida work in Taylor or Showers more?

All are viable questionsespecially after the Week 2 loss.

Florida should experiment with mixing up the rotation during its bye week before opening SEC play against Tennessee. The toughest tests of the season haven't even surfaced, and the Gators are going to need all the help they can get.