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Gators running back Matt Jones will make his 2013 home debut on Saturday against Tennessee.

Monday September 16, 2013Gators Notebook: Jones Discusses Illness and Return, Injury Report, Plus More

Gators running back Matt Jones will make his 2013 home debut on Saturday against Tennessee.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators running back Matt Jones made his 2013 debut in Florida’s 21-16 loss at Miami, rushing 18 times for 47 yards.

It wasn’t exactly the debut Jones had in mind when he finished spring practice as Florida’s top tailback to replace 1,000-yard rusher Mike Gillislee.

“I was a little nervous and not 100 percent running-wise,’’ Jones said Monday during his first media session of the season. “I wasn’t really trusting myself.”

Jones said he felt fine physically – he missed fall camp and the season opener due to a serious viral infection that put him in the hospital for “like seven or eight days” – but wasn’t as sharp as he would prefer running the ball.

Jones said the bye week gave him a chance to catch up to speed and he expects to be in strong form when the Gators host Tennessee on Saturday in the SEC opener for both schools.

“I wasn’t ready for the hits and stuff like that,’’ said Jones, who fumbled on his third carry of the game at Miami. “But as the game went through the first or fourth quarter I felt good. I want to take the team on my back now that I’m back and I feel I know how the game feels now.

“I have big expectations going into this game to run hard and trust myself.”

Jones said he has put on 10 of the 12 pounds he lost during his illness. Listed at 6-foot-2, 226 pounds, Jones said Monday that he weighs 224 pounds and has regained his strength.

There were some scary moments for the sophomore from Tampa, where he starred at Armwood High.

“I just woke up throwing up and feeling nauseous and stuff like that,’’ Jones said. “It was definitely hard. It was a setback, knowing that I put all that work in and I can’t go on the field now and can’t do the things I used to do. The thing with football, sometimes you can have a downfall.

“You don’t know when you can get hurt. It’s how you overcome it and how you come back.”

As a freshman Jones rushed for 275 yards as Gillislee’s primary backup. He blossomed late in the season and capped Florida’s road win at Florida State with a 32-yard touchdown run. He rushed for 146 yards in the final two regular-season games and clamped down a starting job in spring practice.

And then he got sick right before camp and watched as Mack Brown gained 112 years and scored two touchdowns in the 24-6 season-opening win over Toledo.

Jones is ready to take on the additional workload following those early doubts about whether he was back at full-speed in Miami.

“I was taking it bad,’’ Jones said. “I was thinking I wasn’t ready to come back. I was thinking I wasn’t going to be back. My coaches told me to calm down and trust yourself. I started feeling comfortable, almost popped one. I started feeling my cuts. So it went all right.”


Gators coach Will Muschamp said starting right tackle Tyler Moore (sprained ankle) is only player who would have missed the game if Florida had not been off on Saturday. Muschamp is hopeful Moore will return to practice Tuesday or Wednesday. If he is unable to play against Tennessee, veteran Kyle Koehne and transfer Trenton Brown are expected to fill in for Moore … True freshman defensive back Nick Washington underwent shoulder surgery Monday and is out the rest of the season. Washington was injured at Miami … Starting right guard Jon Halapio is set to return Saturday. Halapio missed a majority of fall camp and the season’s first two games due to a torn pectoral muscle.


Tennessee fans love to sing “Rocky Top” during games. Surprising, so does Gators senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley.

“Might as well make the best of it,’’ Easley quipped Monday.

Easley does it more for entertainment value than his love – or non-love – of the tune Volunteer fans have made famous.

“They can hear me, but I don’t do it to taunt,’’ Easley said. “I do it for my own enjoyment.”

Easley’s teammate, defensive back Jaylen Watkins, prefers to prevent Tennessee fans from having a reason to sing the song. Watkins certainly doesn’t sing it like Easley does and voiced an opinion that is common among Florida fans the week of the annual Gators-Vols showdown.

“We all hate Rocky Top,’’ he said.


“I don’t think he’d do it, personally. Does anybody want to ask him? He doesn’t allow some media people in his things. Go ask him. I’d be all for it. I’d like to see it actually.” – Muschamp when asked about possibility of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier serving as honorary Mr. Two Bits, a new UF tradition this season


“In my life, I strive for perfection. If there is no perfection, there is no greatness. We’re supposed to be great.” – Easley on not being satisfied despite Florida’s defense leading SEC


“It's still a huge rivalry. It's a very important game at the University of Florida. There's no question because of the promise both schools had in the '90s, it was a leadoff game for CBS it seemed like every year. It's got a great, great history.” – Muschamp on the Florida-Tennessee game


“We’ll play freshmen when they’re ready. And this guy’s ready. That’s the bottom line. He produces in practice every single day. Then he does it on game day. That’s why he is playing.” – Muschamp on true freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, who has two interceptions in his first two college games


“As a team we don’t let the outside noise get to us.” – Watkins on criticism following loss to Miami

Check out later for more notes from today’s press conference.


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