Jones still uncertain

As the season opener against Toledo creeps closer, the Gators are still in the dark about starting running back Matt Jones. He's working back from a viral infection, and the sophomore will get blood work done on Monday to provide an update on his status. The Gators have been preparing throughout training camp as if he wouldn't be able to play in the opener, and it's starting to look that way.

"We've planned that way the whole time," Will Muschamp said Monday morning. "When you have an injury situation or a medical situation, you always plan without them and if they're there, it's gravy. You always plan without them."

The good news for Florida is that Matt Jones almost has his weight back to where it was before the viral infection. He weighed 226 pounds before he was in the hospital and is now back to 223 pounds. He's becoming more active every day, adding jogging to his routine now.

There's no clarity on when he could return.

If Jones is out for the opener on August 31, Muschamp said on Monday that there is a clear top three at the position. Mack Brown is the starter at the position with Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers behind him on the depth chart. Showers just moved to running back last week after playing it in high school, but the former safety has shown the coaching staff he can contribute on offense.

"He's got great top-end speed," Muschamp said. "He's got really good ball skills. He can do a lot of different things for us as far as lining up at receiver, lining up in the backfield. He's a tough guy to account for a defensive coordinator. We've been very pleased with what he's added for us offensively."

The surprise on the running back depth chart is the placement of freshmen Adam Lane and Kelvin Taylor. Muschamp said they are clearly behind the top three at the position because of ball security and pass protection issues.

"You've got to take care of the football," Muschamp said. "That's the number one thing. They're very talented runners, so much more goes into it other than just running the football. They've got to take a step -- very pleased with both guys. They're going to help us this year. How much, their role, will depend on how they continue to develop. It's a long season. They're going to help us this year."

INJURY REPORT: Offensive guard Jon Halapio (pec) will meet with a doctor on Friday. Defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (patella), fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring) and Vernon Hargreaves (shoulder) are all expected back in practice next week to prepare for the opener. Wide receiver Raphael Andrades (turf toe) is expected to miss 10 days.

Defensive back Jaylen Watkins (foot) will return to practice on Monday.

UPDATING THE DEFENSIVE DEPTH: The Gators will play multiple looks in the defensive backfield, but Muschamp said on Monday that the two clear starters at the position are Marcus Maye and Cody Riggs. He was also quick to point out that Jabari Gorman has played "extremely well" and will play this year.

The Gators are also starting to get answers at linebacker. The two-game suspension for Antonio Morrison continues to stand, forcing the coaches to find depth. Muschamp said on Monday that he expects the starting linebackers to be SAM Ronald Powell, MIKE Michael Taylor and WILL Neiron Ball.

Darrin Kitchens will serve as the backup at MIKE and WILL, with freshman Daniel McMillian backing up the SAM position. Alex Anzalone is working at MIKE while Jarrad Davis is working at WILL.

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