GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Matt Jones came to Florida in July as one of the nation's top running back recruits, but through the Gators' first three games he didn't look like it.
The 6-foot-2, 213-pound running back had gained just 36 yards on 13 carries against Bowling Green, Texas A&M and Tennessee. Nobody was expecting him to unseat senior Mike Gillislee as Florida's feature back, but they were expecting more than 2.8 yards per carry.
That's why UF coach Will Muschamp spent a couple of minutes with Jones before the Gators' game last Saturday against Kentucky. Muschamp's message was pretty short: Stop jitterbugging and trying to go 80 yards on every play and just start running.
"I said, 'Put your foot in the ground and get north and south. Quit all the dancing. We can't try to hit a big run every time,' " Muschamp said. "That's the thing Gilly does. He gets the ball north and south. He hits a crease. He may not hit the big one every time, but in our league it's hard to hit big ones."
Jones, whom ESPN ranked the No. 11 running back prospect in the country, apparently listened, because he ran 10 times for 45 yards against the Wildcats -- without any dancing behind the line of scrimmage.
Muschamp wasn't angry with Jones. Learning how to run in the SEC is a process, and it takes some backs longer than others to figure it out.
Jones had little trouble in high school, gaining 896 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns despite missing four games as a senior at Armwood High School in Seffner, Fla. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry as a senior and 7.3 as a junior. Things aren't as easy in the SEC. The holes are smaller and they close quicker, and the defenders are bigger, stronger and faster.
It's not as easy to break bigger runs, and Muschamp said Jones is starting to get that.
"A 5-yard run is a great run, and that's what sometimes younger players don't understand," Muschamp said in regard to play in the SEC. "They want to hit the big run and in our league that's difficult."