No one has come out and made an official announcement yet, but based on what Will Muschamp and others have been saying this spring, true sophomore Matt Jones has emerged as the clear No. 1 tailback — and it’s probably not even close.

Jones came on strong at the end of last season and has the size/speed combination the Gators are looking for in their downhill running game. This is a guy who was not completely healthy coming out of high school, but his knee is now 100 percent and he’s flashing the skill that led Urban Meyer to offer him a scholarship when he was only a sophomore in high school.

Jones has a chance to be a big-time tailback in UF’s offense. He has a chance to match the 1,000-yard plus season Mike Gillislee put on the board last season if he stays healthy behind would should be a very sound offensive line.

As good as Jones has been this spring, he’s not ready to go along with the popular theme that’s he’s already won the starting job — which is probably a good thing.

“I don’t think I’m the guy now,” he said. “I still have a lot of work to do in the offseason. Filling Gilly’s shoes is a lot of pressure, though. Whoever wins the battle, it’s going to be hard to fill his shoes.

“(Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor) are talented backs. We’re all competing hard, we’re going hard in the film room. We go hard in everything.

“Right now, I’m working on my conditioning and stuff this offseason. I’ve got big shoes to fill. Coach talks about getting a lot of carries, but I’ve still got to stay humble and keep myself healthy and stuff like that. I’ve got a long way to go.”

Brown and Taylor may have a longer way to go to catch Jones, although both figure to get the ball in their hands numerous times this season.

Earlier this week, Muschamp was asked about the tailbacks behind Jones.

“Mack Brown has been really solid. He’s done some nice things. He has been solid in protection and has caught the ball well,” Muschamp said. “Kelvin Taylor has really nice, natural running instincts. He just has to learn what to do and where to go. And that’s not different than the other mid-year guys here right now.

“The tempo of practice, the speed of the practice, the installation, it’s all a mess right now, with all of those (early enrollees). But again, natural running instincts take over. We’re good. Assignment of some different things and scanning and protection and protection from front to back right now and all of that, we’re still baby steps.”

No one’s said it officially yet, but Matt Jones is the guy at tailback.


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