With Gillislee off to the NFL after finishing his four year career, the opportunity to be the man turns to sophomore Matt Jones and the people that watch him prepare for the year believe he is ready to have a big one.
"I feel really good at the running back position," Florida head coach Will Muschamp told the SEC Media Day crowd of reporters on Tuesday. "Matt Jones I think is primed for a big season, a guy that's worked extremely hard in the off-season… spring ball."
Jones is big for the position standing 6-2 and close to 230 pounds. His physical stature fits the mold of what the staff is looking for in a running back.
Senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley believes Jones has matured quickly into the position and is ready to take complete control of being the lead runner on this 2013 Gator squad.
"He's taken on the responsibility of knowing his place," Easley told the media. "He knows what he has to do and he knows we are looking for him to be that guy."
"He's big and can run. He is fast and he wants to hit you before you hit him. That's a problem… when an offensive guy wants to hit you before you hit him. I think he is going to put a little fear in peoples' hearts. It is very rare, because they usually only want to score."
Jones saw playing time a year ago and finished with 52 carries and 275 yards. Most of that yardage came late in the year after he started the season a little tentative coming off of an injury. Easley says Jones wasn't running passive on purpose.
"I wouldn't say he was like that… he just wasn't comfortable enough to be who he was," he said. "He didn't have that confidence in himself yet coming off that injury."
Jones is ready and as late as Tuesday was working teammates to get ready for a big year in the running game.
"He's very physical, I actually had a conversation with him this morning before we left," said senior guard Jon Halapio. He came up to me and said he wanted to break Emmitt Smith's record. He said, ‘help me do that and I am going to help you.' He is very mature and handles his business on and off the field. He is leading the running back group real well. He's just very focused and has been grinding all summer and should have a big year."
And Jones has more motivation, a young son that he wants to take care of down the road.
"We always talk about our kids," said Easley who also has a young boy the same age. "That is one of the happiest moments of our lives and nobody can take it from us. We always know every time we wake up, go to the weight room, or step on the field, we do it for them."