For the first time in his three-plus years at Florida, Mike Gillislee has the ball in his hands and absolutely no one in front of him (except his offensive linemen, of course). His competition is all behind him at tailback.

“Mike has distanced himself to be that guy,” UF coach Will Muschamp said.

To be THE guy at tailback for the first time in his career.

He’s had such a good spring that now in the final few practices the coaches are giving Mack  Brown and Omarius Hines the bulk of the carries to sort out the pecking order behind Gillislee.

“We need to start creating some separation there (between the backups) because when you get in the season, those reps, practice reps, become hard for everybody to get,” Muschamp said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

Perhaps the key for Gillislee is the fact that he’s stayed healthy and in the lineup. Over the past three seasons, he’s been hampered by numerous nagging injuries, usually to one of his ankles.

For Gillislee to remain the guy at tailback in the fall, he will have to stay healthy. He said last week he’s taking measures to make sure that happens by working out hard (and smart) and taking care of his body.

Given Gillislee’s injury history, though, Muschamp is still considering all possibilities at tailback, including the position being handled by committee in the fall if that’s the best way to go.

“We’ll let that situation play its way out,” Muschamp said. “You’d like to have the one guy, but obviously if it’s got to be by committee, we’re going to do what it takes to win games. I’m not ready to say right now what that will be.

“Mike is a guy who has been banged up a lot. You’ve got to prepare and have enough depth prepared for that. You’ve got a guy, Matt Jones, coming in as a freshman. I hope he can contribute.”

There is one certainty at tailback. The Gators are going to be much bigger and stronger at the position than they were last year with the two mini-backs — Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.

“It’s tremendously different,” Muschamp said. “We’re able to run with a bigger, physical back that can take more hits. There’s no question it’s going to help us.”