Jones hopes to be 100%

ATHENS – Center Nick Jones hopes to be 100 percent healthy by the time Saturday's game against Florida gets started.

Even that, though, is no guarantee when playing Gators defensive tackle Marcus Thomas

"He's a handful even at 100 percent," Jones said. "I'll probably be lined up on him every play."

Thomas has four sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss, both of which rank second for the No. 9 Gators, and Thomas has only played in four of the team's seven games. He was suspended from the first game of the season for violating team policy and then was suspended from the Kentucky and Alabama games for another violation.

Several Florida newspapers reported that Thomas failed two drug tests, and the second failed test brings an automatic five-game suspension, which would have kept Thomas out through Saturday's game against the Bulldogs. However, he appealed the suspension and had it reduced to two games. Thomas returned just before the Gators game against LSU.

The only trouble Jones has seen this season is the sprained MCL he suffered against Vanderbilt. After originally being listed as doubtful for the Mississippi State game, Jones played every snap at what he estimated was 70 percent of full health.

"Nick has been a gem for us this year in his play, his leadership, his toughness," Coach Mark Richt said. "Boy we need Nick in there, there's no doubt about it."

Jones' presence is a lift for the entire offense, sophomore tight end Tripp Chandler said.

"Our line really looks to him I think, and I know I personally look to him," Chandler said. "He'll talk to you on the field and lead that way, but he also leads other ways, like with his play. He sets a high bar for himself and that makes us all strive for it."

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