Halapio ready to return Saturday

Jon Halapio isn't used to the sidelines. The redshirt senior has played in 41 games and started 33 during his first three years on the field for Florida. Sitting out the first two games of this season -- especially having to watch a loss -- because of a pectoral injury was tough. Halapio returned to practice last week and will be back with the Florida offensive line on Saturday against Tennessee.

"I'm real anxious," Jon Halapio said. "Sitting out the last two games was really long. It was the longest two weeks of my life. Just coming out this weekend is going to nerve-wracking knowing that it's my first last game. It should be fun."

The two weeks on the sideline gave Halapio a different perspective. During his 41 games played during his first three years, the only time he spent on the sideline was for smaller injuries or when the defense was on the field. Looking out and seeing his fellow offensive line teammates on the field made it tough.

Halapio tried to watch the opposing defensive lines to pick out what they were doing and communicate that information to the Florida linemen. Some of it worked and some didn't, but the Florida run game wasn't able to open up many holes in the running game.

"Communication," Halapio said as the reason the Gators struggled. "We've got to do a better job of preparing for that offensively. Technique-wise will always be there. It's mostly communication and just recognizing different fronts that they throw at you."

The communication will improve on Saturday simply because of Halapio's experience. He and center Jonotthan Harrison are heading into their third season lined up next to each other, so they know the calls and can make sure the rest of the line does before the snap.

Halapio said he could've played last week if the Gators had a game. The pec injury originally happened during the offseason while the team was maxing out on the bench press. When Halapio brought the bar down to his chest, it ripped the pec. He went through plenty of treatment and recovery while the team doctors watched the healing process.

He'll take the field with a brace on Saturday. Halapio described it as an upper body brace that looks like a sleeve with two straps that pull across his shoulder. He can still stick his arm straight out, but the brace keeps the arm from being able to be pushed backwards, which could possibly reinjure the pec.

"If anything, it helps me keep my hands inside and prevent any holding calls," Halapio said with a laugh.

The risk for reinjury is still there.

If his arm gets pushed too far backwards, it can put pressure on his pec and potentially tear it again.

"(Team doctors) said that just because of the time period it happened, that I don't have that much time for me to develop the strength that I have and that it can tear off again," Halapio said. "Whether if it was going to be 50 percent intact, or 100 percent intact, it's still going to be weak, so it could still tear at any time.

"They're telling me that that's the down side of it, but the brace helps really well. Practicing last week and this week was a confidence-booster for me."

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