GAINESVILLE (AP) — Florida coach Will Muschamp couldn’t recall going through a season like this one.
The 22nd-ranked Gators will be without running back Matt Jones for the remainder of the year, the latest addition to the team’s lengthy injury report.
Jones had surgery Monday morning to repair torn meniscus in his left knee. Jones injured his knee during Saturday’s 17-6 loss at LSU.
“Very unfortunate,” Muschamp said. “I hate it for Matt. He’s a great young man. To go through what he’s been through … and then to have this setback is just disheartening for all of us.”
Jones, a 6-foot-2, 226-pound sophomore from Seffner, carried 79 times for 339 yards and two touchdowns this season. He missed most of fall practice and the season opener while recovering from a viral infection. He worked his way back into shape and into the starting lineup.
He had costly fumbles in each of his first two games, prompting Muschamp to open up the job. Jones responded with a 176-yard performance at Kentucky, essentially solidifying his spot atop the depth chart.
Now, the Gators will turn to senior Mack Brown, who leads the team with 340 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and freshman Kelvin Taylor.
Florida plays at No. 14 Missouri on Saturday.
“We’ll get the next guy up,” Muschamp said. “We’ve recruited well at the position, so those guys will get their opportunities and they need to be ready in all situations.”
Jones is the seventh Florida player — and fourth starter — to be ruled out for 2013.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel broke a bone in his lower right leg Sept. 21 against Tennessee. Three days later, disruptive defensive tackle Dominique Easley tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus in his right knee during practice.
Starting right tackle Chaz Green (labrum), backup receiver/kick returner Andre Debose (knee), freshman linebacker Matt Rolin (knee) and freshman defensive back Nick Washington (shoulder) also sustained season-ending injuries.
“It is what it is,” Muschamp said. “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. 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.”
Taylor could gain the most from Jones’ injury. The son of former NFL running back Fred Taylor has carried 16 times for 98 yards this season. He ran 10 times for 52 yards against the Tigers, showing better burst than Brown or anyone else on the bench.
Taylor had ball-security issues during fall practice, but Muschamp praised him for having his best week of practice before the LSU game.
“Assignment-wise and ball security, yep,” Muschamp said. “When you’re able to do those two things, you give us more confidence in situationally playing you in the game. I thought he did a good job of that. He deserved the opportunity. Regardless of the injury, he was going to play in the game more than he had previous to this game. Obviously, the injury accelerated that.”
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