Nobody likes to see or hear about season-ending injuries. From my own personal experience, it’s a terrible thing to go through, having to deal with the physical and mental pain associated with it. For the Florida Gators, this season has been filled with these types of injuries. In total, the Gators have lost four major contributors on the football field for the remainder of 2013. For Kentucky’s sake, these injuries may be the leap over the hurdle that they need to end the 26-year long losing streak. In no way am I celebrating the injury of an opposing team’s player, but statistically speaking, this may be Kentucky’s best chance yet for an upset.
– Dominique Easley – DE
Let’s start with yesterday’s breaking news out of Gainesville. It was confirmed that Florida’s star defensive-end, Dominique Easley, has suffered a torn ACL and will require season-ending surgery. It occurred sometime during practice on Tuesday when he planted his foot for a quick cut, but immediately fell to the ground. Before it was confirmed, Florida’s head coach Will Muschamp was quick to downplay the injury, noting that the medical staff is further evaluating Easley’s knee.
“He’ll probably be out today, and we’ll see how it goes,” Muschamp said. “He was planting to run on a screen and just tweaked it a little bit. We think he’ll be fine.
“Yeah, we just need more information right now. We’re going through that process at this time.”
While this is old news for those who followed along on KSR, you may have missed this tweet Easley sent out to his #GatorNation:
“Gatornation thank you for all of 4 yrs of sticking with me but god has something else planned for and have no worries #believe,” Easley’s private Twitter account (@MR_ChUcKiE_2).
While this is terrible news for Florida, it will be one less headache for Neal Brown and whomever is in at QB for the Cats. Easley is easily Florida’s leader on defense. The senior defensive end is the vocal leader of Florida’s big men up front, and plays with a contagious fired-up attitude. He’s very disruptive to the opposing offense, and a nightmare for any quarterback. With Easley on the sideline, Florida will miss their best defensive lineman and team leader. He has five tackles this season, including two for a loss, and is tied for the team lead with four quarterback hurries. Last season he had a total of 26 tackles and a team-leading 4 sacks. While his injury is a huge blow to the Gators, this will be a huge break offensively for the Cats. Florida’s defense will still be as aggressive as ever, but without big #2, there may be a noticeable difference in their “swag”.
– Jeff Driskel – QB
Anytime a quarterback goes down for the season, the offense will – most of the time – struggle to find a new rhythm. This wasn’t the case for Florida when starter Jeff Driskel suffered a broken leg early in their game vs. Tennessee last week. In came hero and redshirt junior, Tyler Murphy. Murphy finished the game with a lot of positives on the stat sheet and lead the Gators to a 31-17 victory. However, Murphy may have not been the hero that he was said to be. Tennessee turned the ball over 4 times to Florida’s defense, giving the Gators great field position time after time. All Murphy had to do was play smart football, and he did just that. He finished with a passer efficiency rating of 161.1, completing 8-14 passes for 134 yards & 1 touchdown. Not only did he pass well, but he also ran the ball 10 times for a total of 90 yards and another touchdown. While he played well in his debut, he didn’t play great. He did what he had to do to escape with a win at home.
There’s no doubt that the loss of Jeff Driskel hurt an already struggling offense. Like I mentioned above, the defense was the leading cause for their victory against UT. Driskel was a duel threat QB on his own, earning the most rushing yards in a single game by a Florida QB (177 yards). Yeah, more than what Tim Tebow had ever gained in a single game. He also had a 132.19 passing efficiency last season, throwing for 1646 yards, 12 TDs, and 5 INTS. Chalk that up with 17 games of experience, and you’ve lost a whole lot on offense. Before Murphy was sent in last week, he had never completed a pass as a Gator. Big difference! If #BBN can come to their feet on Saturday night, maybe we can rattle the in-experienced QB into making enough mental mistakes to allow UK to pull the upset.
– Chaz Green – OL & Andre Dubose – WR
While these two players have less of an impact for the Gator’s football team, their loss has still shown effects on offense and special teams. Green has 18 starts as an offensive lineman, and was named a 2011 Freshman All-American. He suffered a torn ACL a few weeks ago and will be out for the remainder of his junior year. With the loss of an experienced and proven lineman like Green, this makes the job easier for our boys in blue, specifically Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree. Tyler Murphy better keep an eye on our defensive front. Look for DJ Eliot to expose the replacement with blitzing schemes.
As for Dubose, he hasn’t really been a threat on offense, but he sure is one on kick returns. In his first three seasons at Florida, Dubose has 4 kickoff returns for touchdowns. The last thing Kentucky needs on Saturday is another easy score on special teams. Even though the Gators are stacked with speedy returners, one less threat always helps. Dubose suffered an ACL injury as well earlier in the season.
– Brian Poole – CB
Don’t forget, Florida’s Brian Poole must set out for the first half of the Kentucky game as well. Poole was ejected from last weekend’s game after leading with the helmet on a defenseless Volunteer receiver. The half-game suspension stems from the NCAA’s new “targeting” rule. This furthers the advantage for UK on offense, as it eliminates another defensive playmaker for the Gators. Look for the Air Raid offense to let it fly early, exposing the weakness – if Florida’s backups have any – left by Poole’s suspension.
Once again, an injury is never a laughing or celebratory matter, but it does allow a competitive advantage. Look at UK basketball last season, Noel had a season-ending injury and it quite possibly ruined Kentucky’s chances of making the NCAA tourney. In sports, injuries are bound to happen. That goes quadruple for football. Luckily for Kentucky – knock on wood – there have been no major injuries besides the loss of Josh Clemons due to a reoccurring knee injury. For Florida, having four contributors go down so early in the season for so long, it will definitely leave an effect on their team. Hopefully for Kentucky, the inexperience and slight drop in talent can boost UK over Florida for the first time in 26 years. I’ve never witnessed a Gator defeat, and I think it’s time for one!
A lot of people will argue that, “It’s Florida, their back ups are still better than our starters.” In some cases that may be true, but the loss of these five players will absolutely add to Kentucky’s chances of an upset.