Opportunities available

With sophomore running back Matt Jones out for Saturday's season opener against Toledo, the Gators will piece the game together with multiple backs carrying the ball. There's no mystery around the starter -- redshirt junior Mack Brown will start his first career game after a career on the bench. Florida will also trust Mark Herndon, Valdez Showers and freshman duo Adam Lane and Kelvin Taylor.

Jones returned to practice in full pads on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to return against Miami on September 7. That leaves one week for the backups to prove their worth to the team with extended carries on Saturday against Toledo.

"We'll see who has the hot hand," Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "We've got guys used in roles, and they got to embrace their role."

Mack Brown is the first in line. After waiting patiently for his opportunity, this is the chance for the redshirt junior to prove what he's capable of doing as a starter. Saturday will be his first career start. His first three years on campus haven't provided many individual highlights. When Mike Gillislee got hurt late in the Texas A&M game last year, it was Brown that ran the clock out and secured the win.

Besides that, Brown has been a fill in player that moved to third on the depth chart last season after Matt Jones passed him midway through the year.

"The past three years have been kind of hard -- probably getting two carries every four games," Brown said. "It hurts, but I'm not looking at the past no more."

He took his spot on the bench but made sure to glean as much information as possible from other running backs. Brown pointed to Gillislee, Emmanuel Moody and Chris Rainey as running backs he has learned the most from in recent years.

Before the Gators run out of the tunnel on Saturday afternoon and start their season, Brown admitted the nerves would start to come. He has never carried the ball more than 10 times or gone over 36 yards in a game but could top both numbers on Saturday if he proves capable of handling the load.

"Usually I'm on the bench the whole game and probably get in the fourth quarter. Now you're starting the game. You got a little bit of butterflies in your stomach."

Former walk-on Mark Herndon, who was awarded a scholarship a week ago, is listed second on the depth chart and will also be involved in the offense.

Third on the depth chart is an interesting story.

Valdez Showers was approached about a move to offense before camp when the Florida coaches found out Jones would be held out with the viral infection. Showers, the former Gatorade Player of the Year in Michigan as a high school running back, jumped at the possibility.

"That's something you can't let go," Showers said of his early career as an offensive player. "Even when you're on defense and you got those INTs, you want to score."

The 5-11, 190-pounder won't be trusted to carry the ball between the tackles for 20+ times a game. That's not his role on the offense, and there's no guarantee his body would be able to handle the load either way. So the Gators are being creative with Showers.

His role was first presented to him as the Omarius Hines role. He'll line up at running back and some in the slot, and while he could touch the ball on handoffs, he'll be more involved in the passing game on screens and shorter throws.

"I think it's a real good move," Brown said of Showers. "I think it'll help out the offense a lot. He's a real fast back. He can catch. Real smart. So this is a big opportunity for Valdez."

The only hurdle left to clear was his jersey number. Showers came to Florida wanting to wear No. 10, and he was given that while playing safety. After moving to offense, someone had to change jersey numbers as backup quarterback Tyler Murphy has worn it since coming to campus.

Showers wanted the number when coming to campus to honor his grandmother. Her birthday was October 10, and she passed before her birthday in 2010. It was an easy decision to choose the number.

"That's for her," Showers said.

He'll have an opportunity to make a role for himself on Saturday.

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