Fans of the University of Florida got a great surprise in 2012 when running back Mike Gillislee burst onto the scene as a starter and after never rushing for more than 328 yards in any previous season and finished the year with 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns. If it hadn’t been for Gillislee, there would have been serious questions as to where the Gators offense was going to come from.
And now with Gillislee headed to a career in the NFL, the question arises, “Who will take over the starting running back spot?”. As Spring practice gets very close the candidates for the starting spot really come down to 2 backs, sophomore Matt Jones and freshman Kelvin Taylor.
First, the incumbent Jones. In 2012 Jones was the teams third leading rusher behind Gilislee and quarterback Jeff Driskel and finished the year with 275 yards and 3 touchdowns with a very nice 5.3 yards per carry. Jones is almost a bigger version of Gillislee, weighing at around 225lbs and with his speed and agility he comes downhill as a heavy load that will run through arm tackles. Many Gators fans believe that Jones has the potential to be one of the best running backs in school history.
But it’s not so easy to simply hand Jones the starting job. On his heels will be the true freshman superstar Taylor. The son of for Gator great Fred Taylor, he comes with a serious football pedigree and impressive bag of tricks. In fact, if you trim about 10 pounds off of Jones, you basically have Taylor. Similar size and speed, very similar running styles and both young and highly recruited.
I fully expect this battle for the starting spot to be decided in the fall. No way head coach Will Muschamp to just hand over the starting spot, but as we’ve seen once he declares a starter, assuming he is productive will get the lion’s share of the carries. If I were making a prediction, I give the edge to Jones winning the starting job, but it’s going to be close and it’s going to be exciting, and will likely come right down to the wire.