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Florida welcomes RB Jones back to lineup

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Don't expect No. 12 Florida to ease running back Matt Jones into action.

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Instead, the Gators (1-0) plan to work Jones early and often Saturday at Miami (1-0) - a clear indication how they feel about the 6-foot-2, 226-pound sophomore.

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Jones, who missed three weeks of practice while recovering from a viral infection, could get as many as 25 carries against the Hurricanes.

``I'm not saying that's what he's going to get, but I expect him to be out there and be in the offense,'' Pease said Tuesday. ``We got to be smart in how we use him ... and the number of reps he can handle. He'll know the game plan. He'll know that because he's a smart guy. It's just we'll see what he can handle, but I expect he can handle it all.''

Jones was hospitalized in late July because of the infection, lost noticeable weight and spent weeks recovering. He started working out in mid-August, but team doctors were cautious with his rehabilitation. They wanted to avoid a relapse or any setbacks, especially in Gainesville's sweltering summer heat and humidity.

He was cleared to practice and play late last month, and the Gators targeted Saturday for his return.

``I don't really know what he's going through or what he's feeling, but he seems to be handling it well,'' quarterback Jeff Driskel said. ``I know he's going to do everything he can to be at 100 percent. If he's close to 100 percent, I'll take that.''

Jones ran 52 times for 275 yards and three touchdowns last season, getting most of his work in mop-up duty behind Mike Gillislee. He was at his best late in the year, running 16 times for 146 yards in the final two regular-season games against Jacksonville State and Florida State. His 32-yard TD run in the fourth quarter against the Seminoles helped seal a victory.

Pease and coach Will Muschamp thought so highly of Jones during offseason practice in March and April that they gave him just one carry in the spring game.

``From the defensive side, you got to be aware this kid can carry the football,'' Pease said. ``He's a power run, a downhill-run guy. He's got capability of breaking it and going all the way. You saw that in the Florida State game. He knows protections. He's got good hands. We can play him in a lot of different positions. We can split him out. He can catch the ball.''

Jones has not spoken with reporters since his hospital stay, and team officials don't anticipate making him available until after he plays this season.

Muschamp insists that will happen Saturday against the in-state rival Hurricanes, who gave up 218 yards a game on the ground last season and ranked 112th in the nation. If Miami hasn't improved drastically, Jones could be for a dynamic debut.

Florida ran for 262 yards in the season opener, a 24-6 win over Toledo. Backup Mack Brown (112 yards and two TDs) had a career day, and reserves Kelvin Taylor, Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers each ripped off long runs.

The Gators want to pound the ball. It's Muschamp's philosophy, Pease's game plan and Jones' primary role.

``I like that mentality and I think that's the way we're going to win this game,'' right tackle Tyler Moore said. ``I think we have a good chance if we do that.''

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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