UF coach Dan Mullen said starting offensive guard Chris Bleich’s decision to leave the team and enter the NCAA transfer portal this week caught him by surprise.
“Yeah,” he said. “He has family issues at home and I think it sort of came from that.”
Bleich, who is from Hanover Township, Pa., started eight games at guard this season. But he was benched in the Georgia game and did not return. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Richard Gouraige, who is now the starter.
True freshman Evan White now becomes the first offensive lineman to come off the bench, offensive line coach John Hevesy said.
“He’s the next one coming in to play,” Hevesy said. “It’s opportunities. I told him today, ‘Opportunities come. That’s what you came here for. You didn’t come here to sit next to me on the sidelines. So your opportunity is here; go play.’ ”
Starting defensive end Jabari Zuniga tweaked his injured ankle against Georgia and his status for Saturday’s game is uncertain. Before returning last week, he missed six games with a high ankle sprain.
“He’s working to get back. We’ll see,” Mullen said.
Mullen said rush end Jon Greenard, who missed the LSU and South Carolina games with a high ankle sprain, has practiced all week. He returned for the Georgia game last Saturday and had a team-high nine tackles.
Commodores at quarterback
Vanderbilt’s top two quarterbacks — Mo Hasan and Riley Neal — are both in concussion protocol and are not expected to play in Saturday’s game against Florida.
Neal, a graduate transfer from Ball State, started the first six games of the season, but was benched in favor of Hasan going into the Missouri game three weeks ago. Hasan sustained a concussion in that game and Neal took back over as the starter.
Neal left last Saturday’s game at South Carolina after he took a blow to the head and was replaced by redshirt junior Deuce Wallace, who completed eight of 17 passes for 30 yards in the Commodores 24-7 loss.
Either Wallace or redshirt freshman Allan Walters will start against the Gators.
“I’m pretty sure in my mind who’s playing quarterback,” Vandy coach Derek Mason said on Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “It’s just a matter of making sure we get the reps and we get that guy comfortable with what we’re doing.
“I’ve got a couple of guys. I’m pretty sure I know in my mind who is going to have the first crack in this game. I’m pretty sure of where I’m at.”
Wallace has played in six games this season, completing just 33 of 76 passes for 217 yards with three interceptions. Walters has not played.
UF is preparing for both quarterbacks.
“You just have to have an awareness of the running style of the quarterbacks,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “You have to have awareness of which guy could have really good athletic ability and have speed on the edge as opposed to maybe another guy that doesn’t.
“They can obviously pull the ball on the read zone stuff because they still run all the quarterback run plays. It’s just some guys can be a little more dangerous than others. And then in the pass rush, some guys have to account for a little bit more because they can take off and create double-digit plays and things like that.
“I don’t think you really change how you play them, it’s just you have to have awareness of who that guy is to understand his athletic ability.”