Notebook: Gators healing up prior to key game
Published: Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 9:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 9:19 p.m.
As Florida gets closer to Saturday's game time, it appears a few more important pieces are starting to come together for the Gators.
Florida got its offense going the last two weekends, but now the 24th-ranked Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC) are looking to get healthier before No. 22 South Carolina (6-3, 4-3 SEC) arrives in Gainesville equipped with a coach in Steve Spurrier who knows the ins and outs of The Swamp.
One of the key cogs of Florida's offense, running back Jeff Demps, has been hampered by a sprained foot since September and has been limited in both practices and games since. Thursday, Florida coach Urban Meyer said Demps will play against the Gamecocks, but will be limited.
"He won't play the whole game," Meyer said of Demps after Thursday's practice.
Demps was held out of the Vanderbilt game last week. With Demps limited, backup running backs Mike Gillislee and Emmanuel Moody should share carries with receiver/running back Chris Rainey.
Florida should also get receiver Andre Debose back. Debose sprained his ankle against Mississippi State three weeks ago and was limited against Vanderbilt. Meyer said Debose is "pretty close" to being full speed, but will play Saturday.
On defense, Meyer said junior defensive end Jaye Howard (ankle) is probable and will be limited if he plays.
There was also good news concerning reserve linebacker Dee Finley. The sophomore fractured his collarbone against LSU, and Meyer said he could return against Appalachian State next week.
As for the game itself, Meyer refrained from talking about the magnitude of it with the SEC East on the line. Florida is looking to right its season with a third straight trip to the SEC Championship, while the Gamecocks are looking for their first trip to the title game in school history.
Though Meyer was mum on what the game means to Florida, he did say he was excited to see The Swamp glowing under those Saturday night lights.
"I think it's really great for these fans here," he said. "I love this stadium and I love to see our fans have a great time."
Freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley is back with the team, but isn't practicing, Meyer said.
Easley has dealt with a multitude of off-the-field issues this season and was left off the travel roster for Vanderbilt, but Meyer said he's "fulfilling his obligations" to earn practice and playing time.
"I want to get it out there that he's doing fine," Meyer said of Easley.
Multiple return men
With some of the struggles junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins is having as Florida's punt returner, Meyer said he's using both Rainey and Debose back there in practice as well.
Rainey began the year as Florida's returner, but Janoris Jenkins took over after Rainey's suspension. Meyer said all three are improving, but the loss of All-American returner Brandon James has left a huge void in Florida's special teams.
"When we lost Brandon James it really (hurt the return game) because that was a steady guy," Meyer said. "That was his job."
Janoris Jenkins is averaging 7.7 yards on 14 returns. Rainey is averaging 11.2 on five returns and Debose has one return for 4 yards.