Up until the past two weeks, the Florida Gators had been able to maintain a generally clean bill of health.
Then came the two-week flurry against Arkansas and South Carolina where nine starters got hurt.
UF has two defensive starters out for the rest of the season — linebacker Alex Anzalone and safety Marcus Maye. Four additional starters — quarterback Luke Del Rio, center Cam Dillard, defensive lineman Bryan Cox and linebacker Jarrad Davis — are also expected to miss No. 21 Florida’s road game against No. 16 LSU on Saturday.
While three big-name players are likely to return in defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson, interior offensive lineman Tyler Jordan and left tackle David Sharpe, Florida’s depth is about to be tested against a stout run game and a shutdown defense.
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“We’ll put 11 out there and they’ll go do what they can do,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “You know what, you come to schools like this to play in those environments and it’s going to be a great opportunity for some guys.”
The opportunity is probably greatest for the young offensive linemen.
With Sharpe and Jordan likely to be game-time decisions — and probably relegated to backup roles should they be cleared to play — McElwain would be forced to start the offensive line that played the bulk of Saturday’s 20-7 win against South Carolina, a group consisting solely of underclassmen.
Sophomore Martez Ivey would move from his usual spot at left guard to left tackle, with redshirt sophomore Kavaris Harkless taking Ivey’s spot at left guard. Redshirt freshman T.J. McCoy would be the starting center, with sophomore Fred Johnson (right guard) and freshman Jawaan Taylor (right tackle) round out the group.
They’ll be tasked with stopping an LSU defensive front that is fourth in the SEC in sacks per game (2.67) and fifth in tackles for loss per game (6.44).
“Those guys,” McElwain said, “I [have] total confidence in them.”
On defense, eyes will be on freshman middle linebacker David Reese and redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson, who will start their second straight game together in place of Davis and Anzalone.
Against South Carolina on Saturday, Reese led the Gators with 11 total tackles. Johnson had seven.
“When you look at it, ultimately it’s about your ability to prepare to go out and be successful,” McElwain said. “You know what, they’ve got their work cut out for them this weekend.”
KICKER COULD FACE MISDEMEANORS
UF kicker and former Miami Sunset Senior High soccer standout Eddy Pineiro could face a pair of misdemeanor charges after police said he damaged two scooters while on campus earlier this month.
According to a UF Police Department sworn complaint, Pineiro was walking toward a scooter parking lot on campus at about 2 p.m. Nov. 7 and pushed over a pair of scooters that were next to his.
“Pineiro damaged two scooters by kicking them and then ripping off the side mirrors,” according to the complaint, which was filed Wednesday to the Alachua County Clerk of Courts. “Pineiro then got on his scooter and drove away.”
The total cost of the damage was about $800, according to the complaint.
“We have been aware and it has been handled,” the University Athletic Association said in a statement, adding there is no change to his game status for Saturday.
A junior college transfer from ASA College in Miami, Pineiro has made 13 of his 17 field-goal attempts, including three from at least 50 yards. On kickoffs, 35 of his 47 attempts have resulted in touchbacks.