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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Demps still in competition for starting running back spot

Jeff Demps isn’t practicing with the football team this spring, but he is by no means out of the running for a starting spot in Florida’s backfield.

Demps recently wrapped up the indoor track and field season with an NCAA title in the 60-meter sprint while helping Florida to a national championship. Demps is now gearing up for the Gators’ outdoor track season, hoping to add a few more titles to his mantle before he returns to football full-time.

Focusing on two sports might appear physically demanding, and simultaneously trying to pick up on the Gators’ new offense might seem mentally exhausting, but it hasn’t been a problem for Demps so far.

Florida coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday that Demps has been a part of all of the team’s meetings and walkthroughs, and he hopes the seven-on-seven workouts in the summer will get him back in football shape before fall practice.

“Mentally, he has an idea of what we’re going to ask him to do in the fall,” Muschamp said. “He’ll be involved in that, and when we start camp in August, he’ll be competing for the starting job.

“He was able to bring another national championship to the University of Florida. I have a hard time telling the guy he can’t run track. I think that’s pretty selfish.”

Demps will be on the same level as nearly everyone except running back Chris Rainey when fall practice begins, as the rest of the Gators’ running back corps has been decimated by injuries this spring.

Freshman Mike Blakely will miss all of spring after undergoing shoulder surgery, and junior Mike Gillislee is out with a stress fracture in his foot. On top of those injuries, Muschamp said Tuesday that sophomore Mack Brown broke his fibula and will have surgery Wednesday, keeping him out for three months.

As a result, Rainey has been taking most of the reps at running back, and Florida has even used Trey Burton as a third-down back for protection purposes.

“Those guys needed reps, needed spring. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what happened. We’ll deal with it and move on,” Muschamp said. “That’s where we are, and that’s what we’ve got to work through. We’re just a little thin there.”

BALL UNDERGOES PROCEDURE: Sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (congenital syndrome) underwent a procedure Tuesday, and Muschamp said he is going to be healthy.

Ball was hospitalized in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured, and although he will not be with the team this spring, Muschamp said Ball has handled the situation as well as he could.

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“I’m not worried about his football future,” Muschamp said. “I’m worried about his overall health.”

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