The Gators won’t have every weapon available in the running game. Missing out on starting running back Matt Jones and starting right guard Jon Halapio.
“Certainly they are huge absences,” Florida head coach Will Muschamp said of not having Jones and Halapio. “I certainly feel comfortable with the players filling in with Mack Brown and Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers. If the young backs get the opportunity I think they’ll play well. Tyler Moore and some other guys can fill in at right guard and play well at that position. I think we will play well in their absence, but I think they are good football players and we want them back playing.”
The issues with Jones have been very perplexing without knowing fully what is going on, but Muschamp tried to make it a little clearer.
“Matt Jones will have more blood work done on Monday, he will be out for Toledo and questionable from there on out. He is doing very well. They are putting more on him each day as far as running and lifting. I am very pleased with how he has progressed.
“He seems fine, it is just medical clearance. They feel like he could have some sort of relapse if he returns too early. Any time you have a viral infection like he had, his immune system is down a little bit.”
There seems to be a little more certainty with Halapio, who Muschamp says should just miss the first two games.
“Jon Halapio will be back I think for Tennessee,” he said. “His (pec) is filling in and we feel comfortable with where he is, possibly before that. I would safely project for Tennessee.”
Muschamp said that defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, fullback Hunter Joyer, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and receiver Raph Andrades are all expected to return on Monday.
One player not available to Muschamp last year was BUCK / SAM linebacker Ronald Powell. The junior from California missed the entire year due to ACL injury. Muschamp believes Powell is ready to go and knows it won’t be without a little trepidation.
“He and I talked a little bit about coming back, especially early on, cutting it loose, just playing,” Muschamp said about Powell. “You see him gaining more confidence each day in contact. That is te thing you worry about. He wasn’t tentative but cautious early on and now he is cutting it loose and will play. Sure he will have some anxious moments, but that is expected.
“It’s a great feeling as a coach to see a young man like him develop and come through some much diversity and see how well he can handle it.”
With a pretty healthy team starting next week Muschamp says he likes his chances with his 2013 platoon.
“I do feel good about this team,” he said. “I met with the leaders about where we are. I met with the seniors and leaders yesterday. Some of my issues I had were with a sense of urgency with the team. We have some young guys that have to play and I think everyone in the country has to say that.
“(But) we are experienced in the places we need to be experience… the quarterback position, both lines of scrimmage have some experience. We will be green at running back heading into the first game and receiver a little bit, safety and linebacker, but I feel very comfortable about the talent level.”