Notebook: Hot hand at running back

A healthy Matt Jones hasn't been the answer Florida is looking for at running back. The Gators thought the sophomore would be ready to carry the load on the ground now that he has recovered from a viral infection, but Jones has 96 yards in his first two games. The coaches knew he wouldn't get back in midseason form immediately, and until that happens, the Gators will ride the hot hand.

Florida tried to give Matt Jones the load on Saturday against Tennessee. He was the key running back on the first two drives of the game, but when Tyler Murphy took over for Jeff Driskel on the third drive, Mack Brown was in the backfield next to him. The game ended with Brown doubling Jones in touches, 24-12. Brown came close to doubling the yardage, too, topping Jones 86-49.

"We'll probably go with the guy with the hot hand," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said on Monday. "I think Mack has played well. He deserves that. Matt needs to continue to come on. Kelvin (Taylor) needs to continue to come on. Those are the three guys we feel comfortable with at this point.

Brown led the charge on Saturday

"We just get in the game and see who's making the right cuts, who's getting the ball north and south, who's getting positive yards and who's maintaining possession of the ball. That guy's going to get the ball a lot."

There's no timetable on when Jones could return to form that earned him carries during the second half of the 2012 season. He said last week that he felt ready to carry the load against Tennessee, but it was immediately clear he wasn't back to his old form.

That isn't the biggest surprise to Muschamp. They knew it would take time to get back in form after an infection that caused him to lose 10 pounds and a majority of fall camp.

"Football's a developmental game and it takes time," Muschamp said. "We all knew this going in; this was nothing shocking to us. He's going to get in the rhythm. He's a bigger back, and sometimes it takes those guys a little bit longer to get into their rhythm of playing. He's not playing bad.

"He's got to be sharper in some of his cut and taking his eyes to the right spots. We had a couple busted assignments on protection that we need to get cleaned up. And I think as we move further into the season, he'll continue to play well."

Kelvin Taylor continues to be the wildcard at the position. He got one carry for four yards before quarterback Tyler Murphy caused a fumble on the next snap, giving the ball back to Tennessee. Taylor didn't get into the backfield for the rest of the game.

However, Muschamp continues to mention him as a back they'd like to get more involved in the offense. When that happens is up to the freshman.

"We'll find out this week how well he practices and prepares for the game."

FOWLER BEING HELPED: Sophomore Dante Fowler had his breakout game on Saturday, totaling three tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one sack on his way to earning SEC Player of the Week honors. Fowler flew off the edge against the Volunteers, angry about disappointing performances in the first two games.

But he did get some help.

Defensive tackle Dominique Easley has become the focus of the Florida defense. When opposing offenses prepare for the Gators, Easley is their main concern. The Gators saw that on Saturday.

Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and defensive line coach Brad Lawing noticed that Tennessee was turning its protection towards Easley. He rarely had a one-on-one snap. With the extra focus on Easley, it created one-on-one matchups for Fowler, helping him have his breakout day.

"We've got to do a good job of making sure we create good one-on-ones for Dante or whoever is in that situation," Muschamp said. "There's no question Dominique commands a lot of attention."

KENTUCKY STREAK: The Gators have a 26-game winning streak over Kentucky. It is the longest winning streak in the country over a major opponent in an annual series. However, the players won't hear about that streak from the coaches this week.

"I don't really talk about that at all," Muschamp said. "I just focus on this game, this week, this season, this team, what we need to do to be successful. I don't think anything in that regard helps or hurts your football team in their preparation.

"Whatever the streak is, it doesn't matter. It only matters what we do on Saturday afternoon and that certainly will be reiterated with our players here this afternoon when we start our team meeting for Kentucky."


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