A flabbergasted coach Will Muschamp admitted he never has gone through a season like this one.
No. 22 Florida continues to be decimated by injuries, as the Gators lost starting tailback Matt Jones for the season Monday.
The sophomore tore the meniscus in his left knee in the loss to LSU and is out for the year after undergoing surgery Monday morning.
Jones left UF’s 17-6 loss to LSU after just six plays, but Muschamp said after the game that the injury was “not serious.”
Never miss a local story.
He was mistaken.
“We thought it was a sprain in the knee, it turns out it was a torn meniscus,” Muschamp said.
“I hate it for Matt. He’s a great young man, to go through what he’s been through this fall, missing all of, most of, fall camp. Working his way back in shape and starting to feel good about himself, as far as how he felt physically, mentally and then to have this setback is just disheartening for all of us.”
The preseason All-Conference tailback rushed for 339 yards and two touchdowns in five starts after missing UF’s season-opener battling a serious viral infection.
Jones recorded four carries on Florida’s opening drive against LSU — the final run and his last of the season after getting rolled around his legs close to Florida’s sideline.
The sophomore is unlikely to be cleared for a medical redshirt, but Muschamp was unsure of the specifics.
Redshirt junior Mack Brown (340 yards, three touchdowns) and highly regarded freshman Kelvin Taylor (98 yards on 16 carries) will spilt carries moving forward. Hybrid back Valdez Showers and former walk-on Mark Herndon will figure into the mix as well.
“We’ll get the next guy up. We’ve recruited well at the position, so those guys will get their opportunities and need to be ready in all situations,” Muschamp said.
Taylor’s role will increase quickly. Just two weeks ago the former five-star recruit seemed destined for a redshirt season after struggling with pass protection and ball-security issues during fall practice. But Muschamp praised Taylor for having his best week of practice before the LSU game, prompting playing time even before Jones’ injury.
Hurting all over
In all though, it’s another setback for the Gators, as Jones is the fifth starter — and seventh player overall — lost to a season-ending injury: Jones, quarterback Jeff Driskel (fibula), defensive tackle Dominique Easley (knee), right tackle Chaz Green (shoulder) and kick returner/wideout Andre Debose (knee).
“It is what it is. I don’t know. It’s unfortunate. More than anything, I hate it for the young men. They put a lot of time and effort into playing in this game and for that to happen, I’m disappointed for them first of all,” Muschamp said.
“That’s what hurts the most, to see guys go through the struggle and having to make that phone call and tell them what’s going on or having to walk them in the training room to tell them what’s happening. That’s very frustrating for a young man with as much time and effort as they put into it.”