With Matt Jones out, Florida Gators to go with ‘hot hand’ at running back against Toledo

No. 10 Florida opens the season against the Rockets on Saturday (12:21 p.m., WTCN-15) without starting running back Matt Jones, who is recovering from a viral infection. If he were healthy, the Gators would count on him as their primary back.

Since he isn’t, UF will turn to a trio of Mack Brown, Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers.

“Matt was going to be tired after every game,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “Now, I don’t know. We’ll see who kinda has the hot hand. If they want more of a role, do a good job.”

Brown, a redshirt junior, will make his starting debut. He has carried the ball in 11 games during his three years at Florida.

Herndon and Showers have never appeared at running back. Herndon is a former walk-on, while Showers moved from safety during the offseason.

Pease didn’t say whether freshmen running backs Kelvin Taylor (Glades Day School) and Adam Lane will play against Toledo. Florida is considering redshirting both of them but hasn’t reached a final decision yet.

Purifoy to play offense: Florida plans to go into each game with a set of offensive plays for star cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy.

The Gators experimented with Purifoy on offense last season, and he produced a 5-yard run and an 8-yard catch. He worked with the offense on a more regular basis during the offseason and expects to have a significant role at receiver this year.

“There will be some things involved for him,” Pease said. “There will be probably a package a week for him. We can’t overload him because he has the defensive scheme he’s still got to worry about, but I think he’s a kid that we can give him the ball three or four times a game.”

Joyer returns: Florida’s top fullback, Hunter Joyer, was back at practice after missing two weeks with a pulled hamstring. He played every game the past two seasons.

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