Injuries will change format of Orange and Blue Game


Florida head coach Will Muschamp said his Gators will not be dividing into two teams and playing a traditional spring game next Saturday. (Photo courtesy of UF Communications)

Published: Friday, April 1, 2011 at 7:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 at 7:58 p.m.

Will Muschamp's team has been so decimated by injuries at running back and on the offensive line that Florida will not be dividing into two teams and playing a traditional spring game a week from Saturday.

The Gators are so banged up, maybe they should call next Saturday's game the Black and Blue Game instead of the Orange and Blue Game.

“We're going to probably have an offense that scores for the Blue and an offense that scores for the Orange,” Muschamp said after Friday's practice. “We need to have a good functional day teaching our schemes.

“No. 1, we're too thin to divide up. No. 2, I don't want a guy matched up in a bad mismatch issue, and you can't get the ball off in some situations. That certainly can happen, especially as thin as we are.




“It's kind of the operation we're going to have. We met as a staff this morning and talked about the spring game and the procedure we will go through.”

The latest Gator lost to injury was offensive tackle Nick Alajajian, who sustained cartilage damage in his knee Wednesday and is looking at a three-month rehabilitation process following surgery.

With Alajajian out and offensive tackle Xavier Nixon missing practice with a sprained ankle, the Gators had only seven offensive linemen to work with Friday — and that number included walk-ons. Nixon is expected to return Saturday or by early next week.

The Gators are also paper-thin on the defensive line, where UF is double-training several players, including former Gainesville High star Earl Okine, who is playing both end and tackle.

In the offensive backfield, UF is down to only one healthy true tailback — senior Chris Rainey. The Gators lost redshirt freshman Mack Brown earlier this week to a broken fibula, while senior Jeff Demps is concentrating on the outdoor track season and is not practicing with the football team.

“We're working about seven (offensive linemen), and that's total bodies,” Muschamp said. “That's all we've got. Injuries are part of the game. There's nobody feeling sorry for the Gators right now, I can tell you that.

“Injuries are part of it. You have to have other guys step up. One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. You build depth through these times and you find out a lot more about your football team in these situations.

“It's something that happens. We don't have any excuses around here.”

When asked if he felt time was running out this spring for his injury-depleted team, Muschamp shook his head.

“No. We've still got a lot of time,” he said. “We have (Saturday) and three good workdays next week. I don't view the spring game any different than I view (Saturday's practice). It's an opportunity for our football team to get better.

“We get 15 chances to get better. In the 10 we've had so far, I feel good about nine. There's one where I feel we didn't make much progress. But I've been pleased with our progress.

“We look forward to getting in front of Gator Nation in our stadium. Our guys really take a lot of pride when they run out there and play.”

Muschamp said the injuries have not forced the coaching staff to limit what they've done this spring in terms of installing all-new offensive and defensive schemes.

“No, we feel like it was important to continue to teach, as well as the guys were learning,” Muschamp said. “We're not just throwing it out there. We've done a good job of managing how much we carry on both sides of the ball.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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