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Colleges

Former TC star Joyer adds flexibility to Gators’ offense


Published:   |   Updated: August 15, 2013 at 06:49 AM

GAINESVILLE — University of Florida football coach Will Muschamp has plans for junior fullback Hunter Joyer. And it might catch competitors in the SEC off guard.

The former Tampa Catholic High running back, who graduated in 2011 as the top-rated fullback in the nation by Rivals.com and Scout.com, is expected to add flexibility to Florida’s offense this season.

With sophomore running back Matt Jones’ return from a serious viral infection uncertain, Joyer’s presence will be needed.

Joyer pulled a hamstring in practice on Sunday and will be out at least 10 days, but should return in time for the season opener against Toledo on Aug. 31. Joyer has yet to miss a game at Florida and has appeared in all 26 games the past two seasons with four starts.

Used primarily as a lead blocker last season in Florida’s rushing attack, which averaged 188.1 yards per game, Joyer helped pave the way for six 100-yard rushing performances in 2012.

Joyer, at 5-foot-11, 240 pounds, carried the ball only twice last season and in his career, has just 20 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns,.

But this season, Muschamp is planning to get more from his third-year fullback.

“He’s a load on the isolation plays,” Muschamp said. “He blocks with power extremely well on lead plays and counters really well. He’s really good with his hands and catches the ball extremely well. We’ll probably look at him in some one-back stuff as well. He’s a load in short yardage and goal-line situations.”

Working on catching the ball was a focus for Joyer in the offseason.

“It was something I needed to improve on that adds more value to myself and the things I can do,” Joyer said. “More versatility.”

Junior offensive lineman Chaz Green, who redshirted his freshman year at Florida, played with Joyer at Tampa Catholic. Green said his longtime teammate took pride in being a fullback.

“Some of the stuff he did for us at Tampa Catholic back in high school, he kind of rolled that over to here,” Green said. “He’s taken that spot into his own, he’s had a great couple of years, and he’s excelled blocking and giving some runs here and there. He’s definitely taken that position for his own.”

In an era when most college football programs opt to attack through the air via spread offenses, Muschamp said being able to use a fullback like Joyer honors an almost forgotten position.

“There’s not many teams that line up in two-back (formations) anymore and that are traditional two-back teams,” Muschamp said. “It’s really an unsung job. There’s not a whole lot of guys who really enjoy running full speed into a 250-pound linebacker in our league. It’s hard to find.”

Said Joyer: “Whatever the team needs me to do to help win.”

Though the box scores the past two years haven’t necessarily reflected Joyer’s contributions, he’s embraced his role at Florida as a blocker.

“You kind of have to as a fullback,” Joyer said. “It’s something everybody wouldn’t enjoy doing or want to do, so it’s something you have to embrace and accept it as your role and go about your business.”

nwilliams@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @NickWilliamsTBO

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