[Updated, 11-13-17, 1:41 p.m.] Injuries continue to take a toll on this struggling Florida football team.
The total number of starters that are out for the season has risen to eight with the loss of sophomore center T.J. McCoy, who injured his lower left leg in the loss to South Carolina this past Saturday.
“He’s probably going to be out for the whole season,” interim head coach Randy Shannon said Monday.
The Gators also could be without starting quarterback Malik Zaire for Saturday’s game against UAB. Zaire injured his left knee in the South Carolina game and there is no timetable for his return.
“Malik is day-to-day,” Shannon said. “It depends on how he’s feeling each day.”
With Zaire’s status uncertain, redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks returns as the starter. This is the fifth quarterback change the Gators have gone through this season.
“You have to go with Franks right now because you don’t know (about Zaire),” Shannon said. “I can’t predict the future. It’s just day-to-day. Whenever we feel like Malik is ready, he’ll be ready. If not, Feleipe is going to be the guy. Right at this point in time, if we played a game, Feleipe would be the guy. That’s what we have to go with today.”
With the uncertainty surrounding Zaire, the Gators have been giving slot wide receiver Dre Massey reps at quarterback in practice. He is a former high school quarterback.
If Zaire is out, the Gators would be down to one scholarship quarterback — Franks. The back-up would be walk-on Nick Sproles and Massey would be the emergency No. 3 QB. Florida’s other two scholarship quarterbacks — redshirt freshman Kyle Trask (foot) and true freshman Jake Allen (back) — remain out with injuries.
“We have to develop somebody else,” Shannon said. “The last two to three weeks Dre Massey has taken snaps at quarterback. He was a quarterback in high school. We just have to water down a little bit what we’re trying to get done on offense.
“He can execute things, though, so we’re excited. Not excited, but we’re happy that we have been working on Dre Massey playing some quarterback.”
True freshman slot receiver Kadarius Toney has run some plays from the wildcat quarterback position this season, but he’s been hampered by a shoulder injury and has not been getting any reps at quarterback in recent weeks.
“Dre Massey has taken more reps at quarterback than Kadarius,” Shannon said. “Kadarius has been out a couple of weeks. So, you can’t just throw somebody back in there. The guy that’s got the most reps at that point in time, that’s the guy you have to go with.”
With McCoy out, the guy who will be snapping the ball to the quarterbacks the rest of the season will be junior Tyler Jordan, who has played center, guard and tackle during his UF career.
McCoy is the second offensive line starter lost for the season, joining left guard Brett Heggie, who injured his knee in the loss to Missouri two weeks ago. McCoy is the fourth overall offensive starter lost for the year. The others are quarterback Luke Del Rio and running back Malik Davis.
The defense has also lost four starters for the season — end Jordan Sherit, safety Nick Washington, safety Marcell Harris and linebacker Kylan Johnson. A fifth starter, end Jachai Polite, has missed the past two games with an injured shoulder and there is no timetable for his return.
McCoy’s injury further depletes an offensive line that is running out of healthy options behind the starters.
“Well, you just have to move guys around a little bit,” Shannon said. “It’s like the NFL. With the NFL, you usually travel with maybe seven offensive linemen and you’ve got to make one guy have to play guard and center. The other guy has to play tackle. That’ll be your seven.
“Tyler Jordan will be the center, so (Antonio) Riles will have to step up (at guard) with Fred (Johnson) and (Kavaris) Harkless and then you’ve got the other two guys (tackles Martez Ivey and Jawaan Taylor) being the same. You have Stone Forsythe that’ll be the backup at left and right tackle. So we’ve got bodies. We’ve got guys. We just have to coach them up now.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.