Jones ready for feature back role

Florida running back Matt Jones admitted he wasn't 100 percent against Miami. The sophomore got on the field and even started in the backfield, but it was clear he didn't begin the game with the burst that won him the starting job in the spring. As the game wore on, Jones got more comfortable. With a bye week of practice behind him, the sophomore is ready to carry the load.

"I definitely have big expectations," Matt Jones said. "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."

Returning September 7 didn't go as Jones or the Florida offense planned. The sophomore carried the ball 18 times for 47 yards and one fumble on the opening drive. The outcome wasn't much of a surprise.

Jones knew he wanted to play and get on the field, but the normal hesitancy that comes with the first game back from an injury crept into his mind and slowed his play.

"Getting back into the game, that was my first game back," Jones said. "I was a little nervous and not 100 percent running-wise. I wasn't really trusting myself. But as it went, I went trusting myself a little bit."

Jones said the hesitancy was because of the physical part of the game. He took some hits during practice because the coaches wanted him prepared for hits during the game. Mentally, Jones said he was "kind of prepared" for the game. The big issue was his body not being ready to take hits.

His rust showed early, as Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman put his helmet on the football and forced Jones to fumble. Jones admitted that he was carrying the ball away from his body instead of pinned against his chest.

Despite the issues, Jones doesn't regret playing against the Hurricanes.

"I think it was a good thing for me to come back against Miami, getting used to the game," Jones said. "I needed to feel like hits and how the speed of the game changed and stuff like that. I'm definitely glad I came back."

Florida head coach Will Muschamp agreed. The goal was to get Jones some touches and back in the rhythm of the game.

"He's a good football player and you put them in those situations to play well," Muschamp said. "He'll play well, he'll be fine. I think he had a really good off week. I think he worked extremely hard. Again, it was the first game for him. That's the best part of it. Coming off for him, the issues he had medically, I feel good about where he is right now."

The medical issue was a scary time for Jones. He woke up one morning with stomach pain while throwing up and suffering from a bad headache. He was hospitalized for over a week while the doctors tried to figure out what was going on and how to treat it.

Jones weighed 226 pounds when he went into the hospital and said he lost 10-12 pounds. He's now back up to 224 pounds, trying to add two more pounds to get back to where he was before the viral infection.

Practices weren't easy when he was cleared.

"Getting back on the field was kind of tough," Jones said. "I was fatigued a lot, trying to learn plays again and getting comfortable with the game, because the game was a little fast. It was definitely a tough process, but I think I handled it well."

He expects to have a big day on Saturday against Tennessee. The bye week was perfect for him to get his legs under him and continue getting in better shape without having to deal with a Saturday game. He's expecting to put up a big game against the Volunteers.

"I definitely do because I'm back and can do stuff that I couldn't do when I was sick like work on my cuts and bending," Jones said. "I feel the way that I felt in the spring right now -- moving around, catching the ball, protection-wise and knowing everything I need to know."

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