Banged Up Gators Prepare for Tennessee

Saturday in College Station was about survival for the Gators. Players hit the turf at Kyle Field with injuries that included strained groin, fractured thumb, fractured foot and plenty of cramps. After assessing the damage when the team returned to Gainesville, Florida head coach Will Muschamp knows the depth of his team will be tested in Knoxville this Saturday.

"We did have some guys go down in the game," Muschamp said, "but we kind of have saying around here—‘man down, man up.'"

That was the message to the team after the game and as preparation begins this week.

Running back Mike Gillislee strained his groin at Texas A&M early in the fourth quarter Saturday, but Muschamp said that the senior is expected to practice Monday afternoon. They will watch his workload this week at practice to be safe.

"He'll be fine for this weekend," Muschamp said. "He's going to practice (Monday)."

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins fractured his thumb on Saturday and had surgery to repair it on Monday. He won't be able to play with it in a club on Saturday at Tennessee, but Muschamp said it could be an option at some point in the future. Doctors will have a better idea after the surgery.

With Jenkins sidelined, freshman linebacker Antonio Morrison saw increased action against the Aggies. Morrison will start against Tennessee as the WILL linebacker this weekend.

"He will throw his stuff up in there," Muschamp said of Morrison. "I tell you, he's a physical player. He's instinctive. He's tough. Going to continue to learn, going to have some growing bumps here and there, but he is certainly worth it because he does make a lot of plays for us."

Cornerback Cody Riggs will miss 4-6 weeks with a small fracture in his foot. Muschamp said they're leaning closer to him missing four weeks.

Safety Pop Saunders (hamstring) will be available this weekend after sitting out the first two games of the year. Offensive tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral) will not play at Tennessee and isn't expected back until LSU on October 6 at the earliest. Josh Evans is "fine" and will also practice Monday after a shoulder injury against Texas A&M.

Tight end Kent Taylor didn't travel to College Station with the team because of an injury he suffered in practice last week. Muschamp said he is fine and should travel this week to Knoxville.

Ronald Powell tore his ACL in the spring game and was targeting a mid-October return. That won't be happening now. Powell suffered a setback last week and will "more than likely" redshirt this season.

"It's just disappointing for him, a guy that's mentally has been a rock," Muschamp said. "It's been amazing how he's handled the process and he's handling it again very well."

Powell will be out until spring of 2013 at the earliest

REVIEWING TEXAS A&M: The Florida offense was able to keep the team in the game on Saturday while the offensive made adjustments and tried to figure out how to stop the Texas A&M offense.

Florida accounted for eight explosive plays (a 15-yard pass or 12-yard run) on Saturday and didn't turn the ball over. That's the recipe Muschamp wants on offense, and the running game is a big part of it.

"We had over five yards a carry and eight runs of 10 yards of more," Muschamp said. "Very pleased with the run game. Some things we still need to get cleaned up in short yardage. We had two opportunities there. We were able to convert the fourth down on the field goal fake."

Jonotthan Harrison was the offensive player of the game. Xavier Nixon and Jon Halapio were given the weekly Scrap Iron award for the best offensive lineman.

The adjustments for the defense didn't come until halftime, but the Gators made some big ones that shut down the Aggies on offense. Texas A&M had six possessions in the second half and recorded a first down on just one of them.

"Our guys came out poised at halftime and understood what we needed to do to be successful," Muschamp said.

The key to the improved defense wasn't a schematical change. It was about making the aggressive defensive front be calm and maintain their responsibility. Instead of trying to create a pass rush off the edge, Muschamp wanted them to hold their gaps and eliminate the running lanes for quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies' running backs.

"Our effort and our enthusiasm and our want-to is off the charts, but we've got to play more disciplined as a group as far as doing your job," Muschamp said. "You can't cross-face on blocks and backdoor blocks, and it's out of effort and wanting to make a play. It's not out of defiance and not wanting to do something. It's just guys that are trying to do a little too much. We just need to do our job."

Jon Bostic was the defensive player of the game while Morrison was given the weekly hardhat award.

Caleb Sturgis was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after hitting two field goals, including a 51-yarder late in the first half. Strugis and Loucheiz Purifoy split special teams player of the week honors for the Gators.

The special teams struggled in week one, but they showed the effort Muschamp wanted in College Station.

"Back to our standard," Muschamp said. "Great effort. Outstanding effort on specials teams. We've got some guys straining their guts out there, playing a bunch of snaps on a hot, hot day there in Texas. Very pleased with them."


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