The Florida Gators plan to have starting running back Matt Jones and middle linebacker Antonio Morrison back in the lineup when they visit Miami next week.
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Jones, hit with a viral infection in July, is nearing full strength, according to Florida coach Will Muschamp. Jones has been ruled out for Saturday’s opener against Toledo, but should be cleared soon.
As a freshman last season, Jones ran for 275 yards and three touchdowns on 52 carries.
”I certainly think he’ll be available next week,” Muschamp said. ”We haven’t put pads on him yet and he hasn’t been out in the heat yet. He has been in the heat as far as running is concerned, but they’re just worried about a relapse from a standpoint of coming back too early. We’re waiting on the blood work to get back today.
”I’ll know more later.”
Morrison, a sophomore, would have been an opening-day starter if not for two offseason arrests. He allegedly punched a nightclub bouncer July 16 when the man declined to give him discounted admission. He agreed to deferred prosecution.
He was arrested again five days later for barking at a police dog and resisting arrest, which prompted Muschamp to announce a two-game suspension. The charges in that incident were dropped shortly afterward.
”After a thorough review of Antonio Morrison’s situation and how he has handled his punishment, I’m going to suspend him for this game only,” Muschamp said Monday, referring to the season opener. ”I just don’t feel like his actions warranted a two-game suspension.
”That’s where we are with that.”
Morrison played every game for Florida last year and started three times. He was eighth on the team with 34 tackles.
Muschamp declined to specify how Morrison has been punished aside from missing the Toledo game, but was satisfied with his apology and willingness to work his way back into good standing with the program.
”I think he’s remorseful about the whole situation,” Muschamp said. ”We’ve moved forward. Guys make mistakes and have poor judgment at times.”
Next week’s game will be the first between No. 10 Florida and Miami since 2008, and could be the last time the schools play in the regular season. This game will complete a home-and-home contract, and both programs have indicated no intention of signing another one.
Florida also announced that offensive tackle Chaz Green will need season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum he suffered last week. Green, a red-shirt junior, was expected to start at right tackle against Toledo.
The Gators already are going into the season without starting right guard Jon Halapio, who has not practiced since tearing his left pectoral muscle while weightlifting in July. Halapio has been ruled out for the first two games, and the team hopes to get him back Sept. 21 against Tennessee.
Without those two, Florida will start red-shirt senior Kyle Koehne at right guard and Nebraska transfer Tyler Moore at right tackle.