When I wrote about Florida a couple of days ago, I mentioned about how the Gators were a tough team to figure out.
Starting QB Jeff Driskel had just been lost for the season with a broken leg and we don’t have enough knowledge about backup Tyler Murphy to know if he will be able to lead the offense.
I’d be shocked if the Gators can recover from their latest loss.
DT Dominique Easley, a preseason all-SEC selection and a sure first-round pick in next spring’s NFL draft, will miss the rest of the year after tearing the ACL in his right knee.
This is a devastating loss for the Gators.
“Watching any of your players go through this is one of the hardest things about being a coach,” coach Will Muschamp said in a release Wednesday. “Obviously, it is hardest on Dominique. We are disappointed for him, but we will be there for him every step of the way through his surgery and rehab process.”
Florida’s defense has been its salvation, and would have been going forward, but losing one of its best players surely will dent that strength.
With Easley, the Gators are No. 1 in the country in rushing defense (55.3) and No. 2 in total defense (212.3 yards a game). They also lead the SEC in scoring (14.7 points), passing defense (157.0), pass efficiency defense (82.9 percent) and first downs allowed (11.3).
“He’s a veteran guy and the most spirited player on the team. He brings that passion and that energy, and not having him out there will create a big problem. It’s a man-down, man-up situation, but that’s the one man you just can’t replace,” former Florida teammate and current Jacksonville Jaguars safety Josh Evans told The Associated Press.
Easley’s been through this before. He tore the ACL in his left knee in 2011 and it hampered him at times last year.
In addition to Driskel and Easley, the Gators also have lost WR Andre Debose (ACL), their most explosive player and one of the country’s top kick returners, starting OT Chaz Green (labrum) and freshman LB Matt Rolin (ACL) for the year.
Despite their offensive issues, the Gators were still considered — along with Georgia and South Carolina — among the favorites to win the SEC East. Mainly thanks to that great defense.
With Easley’s loss, the East probably just became a two-team race.
I’m planning a post featuring Tim Couch, a former Kentucky QB and current co-host of Fox SportsSouth’s “SEC Gridiron Live,” who shares his thoughts about the SEC’s top quarterbacks.