The Florida Gators are the walking wounded right now.
No. 10 UF (10-1, College Football Playoff No. 8 ) will limp into this weekend’s Sunshine Showdown against No. 14 Florida State (9-2, CFP No. 14), with star defensive tackle Jon Bullard possibly spending Senior Day on the sideline.
First-year coach Jim McElwain said Bullard is “probably out” for the prime-time rivalry game with the Seminoles at 7:30 p.m.
Bullard, who ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference with 13 1/2 tackles for loss, injured his right knee early against FAU. But the senior returned to play the rest of the game, finishing with four tackles.
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“He had every reason to stay in the locker room after getting cut [blocked],” McElwain said. “And you know what? A lot of people would have probably even understood because of all the things that he has in front of him. … That’s something that should be saluted, written about: his toughness.
“But what this guy did coming out of the tunnel to help this football team, guys, that is awesome. I’ve been in this long enough to see some of these guys coming out, and they start saving themselves for the next level. Let’s call it the way it is. I gotta tell you what, you guys should salute him. That was unbelievable.”
Two weeks ago, Bullard was also listed as “doubtful” for the South Carolina game. ESPN even ruled Bullard “out” roughly an hour before kickoff, but Bullard eventually started and played the entire game.
Regardless of Bullard’s status, the rest of Florida defensive line is decimated, too, with as many as six regulars listed on the injury report.
Starting defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (groin) is probable, but standout pass rusher Alex McCalister (foot) and end Jordan Sherit (hamstring) are out. Former starting tackle Joey Ivie is “questionable to doubtful,” and Taven Bryan, who injured his ankle on his 48-yard fumble return, is also “probably out.” Senior linebacker Antonio Morrison, the team’s leading tackler, is probable, though.
“This is the first time we’ve kind of been through this with this magnitude,” McElwain said. “We will have enough guys run out of the tunnel to form a team in this ballgame.”
If McElwain isn’t coyly playing a bit of gamesmanship, then Florida could be in serious trouble against FSU.
Seminoles tailback Dalvin Cook, a former Miami Central star, has seven games with more than 100 yards this season and gashed a stout Gators’ defense for 144 yards in 2014.
Meanwhile, Florida’s injury picture isn’t any rosier on the offensive side of the ball, as three starting linemen are questionable: left tackle David Sharpe (foot), left guard Martez Ivey (shoulder) and center Cameron Dillard (leg). Shifty slot receiver Brandon Powell is also questionable with a foot injury.
“I’m sure [FSU] is going to look at this and go on vacation cause they should beat the heck out of us,” McElwain said. “I’m sure they’re probably going to feel pretty good about coming into The Swamp knowing how dinged up we are and feel pretty good about putting it on us.”