Coaches and players don’t like to make excuses, so that can be avoided by simply stating there is one big reason the bottom has fallen out of Florida’s season in back-to-back blowout losses to Georgia and Missouri.
A lack of players.
Not necessarily a lack of talent, but a lack of sheer numbers thanks to multiple injuries and player suspensions.
Florida’s roster is so depleted that it could be mistaken for a team on NCAA probation that has been slapped with severe scholarship limitations.
The Gators are down 25 scholarship players at the moment, leaving just 56 scholarship players on what could be considered the active roster going into Saturday’s game at South Carolina. UF has only 11 less walk-ons than scholarship players on that roster.
The Gators were without 28 scholarship players in the loss to Missouri last Saturday.
“It’s tough. It’s real tough when you have a lot of injuries like we do,” interim head coach Randy Shannon said.
Couple the injuries with the nine suspensions, and it’s a potentially crippling combination.
Here is what the Gators are without at the moment:
- Starting quarterback Luke Del Rio.
- Last season’s leading rusher (Jordan Scarlett) and leading receiver (Antonio Callaway).
- This season’s leading rusher (Malik Davis).
- Two of the biggest playmakers on offense (Davis and wide receiver Kadarius Toney).
- Starting defensive ends Jachai Polite and Jordan Sherit.
- Starting safeties Marcell Harris and Nick Washington.
- Starting linebacker Kylan Johnson
- Starting offensive guard Brent Heggie.
The overall loss of talent is staggering and has clearly had an impact on the season, especially in these last two games where the Gators had a difficult time competing.
Here’s what the Gators have been left with:
- Two true freshmen starting in the secondary (Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson), and eight other true freshmen making considerable contributions.
- A former walk-on (Cristian Garcia) starting at linebacker
- Little or no depth at defensive end, linebacker, cornerback, safety, wide receiver, on the offensive line and on special teams.
Shannon and his staff have been left with no choice but try and do more with less. And that hasn’t been working so well.
The Gators have been forced to play many freshmen and young, inexperienced players who, in some cases, are still far from reaching their potential.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys. They’re really new to it,” junior defensive tackle Taven Bryan said. “The coaches say they’re not really young anymore, they haven’t really stepped up quite yet. I think they’re finally ready to show you guys what they’ve got.”
The Gators have been embracing the next-man-up mentality since the nine players were suspended in August. It has continued on a weekly basis throughout the season.
The coaches and players aren’t making excuses, but the reality is suspensions and all the injuries have negatively impacted the season.
Shannon gives a good example of how thinned out the Gators have become as the injury list has grown.
“We take the starting (outside) linebacker and put him at defensive end (for the Missouri game),” Shannon said. “We put (Jeremiah) Moon at defensive end. Moon has never touched defensive end since not even in high school, but we had a week to try to get him ready because that’s all we have right now. We’re moving him and (defensive tackle) Luke (Ancrum) back and forth at defensive end, but Luke never played defensive end.”
The diminishing numbers are making it a tough situation for Shannon and his staff. All they can do is keep trying to coach up the players they do have.
“The injuries come,” Shannon said. “Whoever’s on that football field at that time, we have to coach them. I hate to say it that way, not making excuses, but that’s just part of what we’ve got. We are depleted, but we’re not depleted to the point … we’ve still got pride and we’ve got guys who believe in Florida. And we’re just going to continue to play those guys and get those guys in the best situations we can to now respond and come up this upcoming week.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.
Who: Florida (3-5, 3-4 SEC) vs. South Carolina (6-3, 4-3)
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850