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November 6, 2013

Sands talks running backs

Sophomore running back Brandon Wilds was pumped to get on the field last Saturday against Mississippi State, but running backs coach Everette Sands was pumping the brakes on his return from a dislocated left elbow that's sidelined him since the UCF game in September.

Now Wilds, cleared to begin practicing full-speed and full-contact just last Wednesday, has two additional weeks to get ready for his return against Florida, when Sands says he'll be happy to unleash the Blythewood, S.C., native on the Gators.

"He's been looking good this week and he's ready to get back in the mix against Florida," Sands said after practice Wednesday, adding that the sophomore probably has the freshest legs on the team after spending so much time off the field.

Sands said he won't know where Wilds will re-enter the depth chart until next week, but said the 6-foot-2, 223-pounder will be integrated into the gameplan. Sands joked that he doubted Wilds will get the 40 carries the sophomore said he could handle last week, but said "I'm confident he can get in and do whatever we need him to do."

"I think he's very excited," Sands said. "There's no doubt in my mind he was ready to get in last week against Mississippi State, but we held him. I think he'll be ready to roll."

Sands also said sophomore tailback Mike Davis would be ready in time for Florida. Davis, the SEC's leading rusher with 117.56 yards per game this season, has missed practice this week while recovering from mild injuries, but Sands isn't rushing the training staff to get him back just yet.

"We're just making sure we're smart with him," Sands said. "There's no use getting him banged up a little bit. He's got a little bruise on his ribs and a little bit on his shoulder, so we'll let him rest up for a couple of days and get him ready to roll."

Sands said Davis' hard-nosed running style makes him susceptible to nagging injuries, but he's happy to have other options available if he needs them, especially with Wilds back. One of those options has become true freshman tailback Jamari Smith, who recently returned to the offense after playing cornerback for the first half of the season. Smith may have switched back to tailback to preserve fellow freshman David Williams' redshirt, but Sands said he thinks Smith has found his permanent home on offense.

"I think he's a running back," Sands said. "Sometimes you have guys that are really, really good athletes and they can do some things, but they're just a little different when they have the ball in their hands. He's one of those guys, when he's got the ball in his hands, he's a little bit different."

Sands has also been impressed with Williams in practice. Though Williams has spent most of his time working with the scout team at practice, Sands said the Philadelphia, Pa., native is progressing well. Sands said the unit has already begun looking ahead to Florida, noting the challenge of facing the Gators' talented front seven. But the second-year coach said for this week, he's been focusing on getting back to the fundamentals.

"It's always a big thing I talk to my guys about is to take care of the little things, and the big things will take care of themselves," Sands said.

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