With Mike Gillislee's injury history, the Gators need depth at running back
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida running back Mike Gillislee had a career game against Bowling Green.
He's going to get the opportunity to have that kind of performance -- 148 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries -- every week because he'll be the workhorse of the Gators' offense. That means little work for backups Mack Brown, Matt Jones, Omarius Hines and Chris Johnson even though there's still some concern about Gillislee's durability.
The 5-foot-11, 209-pound Gillislee has never had more than 58 carries in a single season, but he's nearly halfway there already after just one game. The senior from DeLand, Fla., was bothered the past two seasons by a chronic ankle sprain but made it through spring practice and August completely healthy and more than doubled his previous career high in carries (11) against Bowling Green. Brown, Jones, Hines and Johnson combined for 11 carries for 44 yards and one fumble. Muschamp said Brown, a redshirt sophomore, or Jones, a freshman from Seffner, Fla., needs to emerge as the clear No. 2 back in order to get more carries and take some of the load off Gillislee.
"Mack Brown ran the ball hard, and Matt Jones did a nice job," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "Omarius Hines did a nice job with some touches. Really, as we move forward, Matt and Mack need to separate themselves in some form or fashion to continue to get Gilly the touches we need for him to have in a game."
The 6-2, 226-pound Jones showed a little more potential to be the No. 2 back than the 5-11, 214-pound Brown did against the Falcons. Jones ran for 17 yards, including a nifty spin move, on his first career carry up the middle on a second-and-6 play in the second quarter. But later in the quarter he bounced a run outside on third-and-2 outside instead of pounding the ball up the middle. He was stopped for no gain and the Gators ended up punting.
"In that situation you've got understand the (yardage) sticks," Muschamp said. "You've got to understand the down and distance. It's not about hitting a home run on third-and-(2). It's about sticking your foot in the ground and getting north and south and getting the ball up in there."
But that's an element Jones and Brown haven't yet shown: The ability to turn a short gain into a big one. They aren't as decisive as Gillislee, either. He's a one-cut runner who hits the hole quickly. On that third-and-2 that Jones failed to pick up, he hesitated and danced at the line of scrimmage instead of making a decision on where to run.
"Matt's a guy that's very intelligent," Muschamp said. "He'll learn as he moves forward."
The Gators need them both to so Gillislee doesn't have to have career days every week.