Gators notebook: Sprained right knee keeps Elam out

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Tennessee tight end Jacob Warren (87) runs the ball past Florida cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. (3) and safety Tre'Vez Johnson (16) during Saturday's game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida junior defensive back Kaiir Elam was ruled out for Saturday's contest with Tennessee due to a knee injury the starting cornerback suffered in the Gators’ 31-29 loss to Alabama last week.

The 6-foot-2 cornerback from Riviera Beach recorded two tackles and three pass break-ups against the Crimson Tide, arguably Elam’s most impressive performance to date in his UF career. 

Elam also recorded UF’s first interception of the season in Florida’s 42-20 win at South Florida. In his absence, the Gators relied on a rotation of Avery Helm, Jason Marshall and Ethan Pouncey. Graduate transfer defensive back Elijah Blades was once again unavailable with a hamstring injury. 

Marshall made the start in Elam’s place opposite of Helm for Florida’s first defensive series. 

Following the 24-point victory by Florida, coach Dan Mullen said Elam was “probable” to return for the upcoming trip to Lexington, Kentucky, to battle the Wildcats. 

“Yeah, so hopefully Kaiir should be back this week. You know, I mean, he'll be, what do they say, like, probable this week," Mullen said. "And talking to him, hoping he's probable for this coming weekend.”

Mullen added that the loss of Elam put the Gators in quite a bind in the secondary, considering UF was already without a trio of defensive backs prior to his unexpected absence.

“That was a tricky deal. You're playing with, like, a hole. Youre talking about playing with a secondary, I mean a lot of the guys, a bunch of them weren’t even on the roster last year, out there playing. You know, that was a position where we're now paper thin, we've already lost two guys for the year,” said Mullen. “Pat Moorer is gonna be out for another two weeks, so that's a third guy, and then Kaiir down, you're down big numbers there, but hopefully Kaiir gets back healthy this week, add some depth to the secondary for us.”

Playing it safe with Richardson

As was the case in UF’s two-point loss to the Crimson Tide, Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson was once again medically cleared and dressed out for Saturday’s contest, although he ultimately didn’t see the field in UF’s 38-14 victory over Tennessee. 

Florida quarterbacks Emory Jones (5) and Anthony Richardson (15) take a snapshot after the Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 38-14 Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Without Richardson, redshirt junior quarterback Emory Jones led the Florida offense throughout the night, finishing with 209 yards on 21-for-27 passing and a career-high 144 rushing yards on 15 runs. 

Mullen said Richardson at first appeared to be fully healthy before the decision was made to rest him once again.

“We built him up to full speed on Friday. Talking with the trainers, and then got him full speed, he was fine. Some of the acceleration, deceleration stuff, he was a little bit tight with still,” Mullen said. “We think it’s 100 percent, and so I think we’re 100 percent now, so I went with that. We’re not waiting for the MRI on Friday, we’re 100 percent starting on Monday’s practice.” 

Offensive line shaken up

Florida sophomore offensive lineman Josh Braun made the start at right guard Saturday against the Volunteers in place of redshirt senior Stewart Reese. 

Reese wasn’t the only UF offensive lineman whose health will be monitored in the coming days, as redshirt sophomore center Kingsley Eguakun went down twice against the Volunteers. Eguakun would return to the field after the first injury scare, only to go down again, this time midway through the fourth quarter. He was able to walk off the field both times on his own and the severity of his injury was unknown. Mullen didn’t have an update on his condition or clarification on the specifics of Eguakun’s diagnosis. 

Spurrier, Gators honor ‘95 and ‘96 teams

With the Gators up 10-7 on the Volunteers through 15 minutes of play, Florida honored the 1995 and 1996 UF teams after the first quarter of Saturday’s contest against Tennessee. 

More than 50 former players were in attendance and recognized in the end zone, as was the man charged with leading the Gators during their memorable run. 

Steve Spurrier, addressed the crowd for nearly a minute and reminded Florida fans of the program’s accomplishments during the four-year stretch from 1995 to 1998: undefeated against Georgia, multiple SEC championships and, of course, the BCS National Championship in 1996. 

Spurrier looked as if he could have continued for several more minutes when it came to poking fun at Florida’s rivals and praising his former players, but the second quarter arrived before he could deliver any further zingers. 

Mullen did have some post-game quips, however. 

“Those guys are all getting older, but I was trying to look and see if we could grab one or two of them for a snap here or there,” Mullen said. “I don’t know if they got four quarters in them, but they got a couple plays left, some of those guys.” 

Not quite 90,000

Florida announced attendance of 88,478 for Saturday night’s contest with SEC Eastern division rival Tennessee. 

It wasn’t one for the record books, which was the case last week against No. 1-ranked Alabama, but Mullen and the Gators felt the impact of the crowd regardless. 

“The Gator Nation showing out really the first four weeks in a row,” Mullen said. “Creating that environment for us here in The Swamp, and getting The Swamp to what it is, a tough place to come play.”