Running back Mack Brown moves up the depth chart in the absence of Matt Jones.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The door is open and Mack Brown is prepared to make a run for it -- literally and figuratively.
With sophomore Matt Jones out indefinitely due to a serious viral infection, Brown enters fall camp atop the depth chart at tailback.
A redshirt junior, Brown's career totals (40 carries, 167 yards) equal the output of a decent game by Adrian Peterson.
In this three seasons Brown has always found himself down the depth chart, first behind Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, and last season looking up at Mike Gillislee and Jones, who rushed for 275 yards as a true freshman and established himself as the starter in spring camp.
But with Jones' status uncertain entering camp, Brown is determined to make a difference in his absence.
"You've always got to have a guy who can fill in,'' Brown said Thursday. "I want to be productive, help my team out more. The last couple of years I felt like I could have made more plays, but I really didn't do as good as I should of."
Brown attributes his lack of production when given an opportunity to several factors, including a broken ankle he suffered two years ago in spring practice. Brown got depressed, fell out of shape in rehab, and then had to learn two different playbooks in two seasons.
When Jones earned the starting job in spring, Brown understood what that meant.
"This whole offseason I just looked at, 'there is not a better time to get myself better,' " he said. "If I would have made some plays in other games ... I just felt kind of useless the last couple of years so now I'm trying to get better."
A former standout at King High in Lithonia, Ga., Brown rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns in his final two seasons of high school. However, his best season for the Gators came last year when he rushed for 102 yards on 25 carries.
Gators coach Will Muschamp believes Brown can live up to the task.
"I have confidence in Mack Brown,'' Muschamp said. "You're not going to make it through the season with one back in our league. It's a huge opportunity for him to step in and to get more touches and more carries which, in that situation, you've got to be productive and I think he will."
Brown spent a large chunk of the offseason focused on increasing his speed. He said since his ankle injury his speed never fully returned.
He did running and agility drills over the summer to pick up the pace.
"I thought when I broke my ankle that it would just hurt and I would come back,'' Brown said. "I had to get my hips back, my flexibility and my speed. I have to play faster."
Brown will have an opportunity early in camp to prove he can carry the load for the Gators. If not, Muschamp has true freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane to turn to. Walk-on Mark Herndon also showed some flashes in spring practice that he can pick up yards when given an opportunity.
"I think we recruited well at that position,'' Muschamp said. "Those guys can step up."
Brown gets the first chance.