GAINESVILLE -- So much for chemistry.
Florida will kickoff Friday’s training camp without one-third of its starting offense, coach Will Muschamp announced Thursday during UF’s annual Media Day in Touchdown Terrance at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel remains sidelined recovering from appendectomy surgery, but the major revelations involved starting sophomore tailback Matt Jones and first-team guards Jon Halapio and Max Garcia.
Muschamp exited SEC Media Days on July 16 confident he had a healthy football team entering the fall, but the situation has drastically changed in the weeks since.
Jones -- an anticipated breakout star -- is out “indefinitely” with a serious viral infection, and Muschamp could give no timetable on his return.
When asked if Jones was discouraged or disappointed, Muschamp said, “10 percent of life is what happens to you, 90 percent is what you do with it. There’s no better kid in that locker room.”
As for the Gators’ starting offensive linemen, Halapio partially tore a pectoral muscle three days after attending SEC Media Days and will miss at least the first week of camp. Florida’s senior guard will not need surgery but a definitive return timetable won’t be determined until a doctor’s appointment next Friday. Garcia, a Maryland transfer, is out due to a recurring back injury (inflammation) and won’t be cleared for contact until Aug. 6.
Muschamp did not seem overly concerned with the sudden rash of injuries, curbing any potential gloom and doom by saying, “We’ll be fine. …I worry about the things I can control. The guys that are on the field, we’re going to coach them hard and we’re going to have a good football team. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
There was some positive injury-related news shed too, as linebackers Ronald Powell (ACL), Matt Rolin (ACL) and Alex Anzalone (torn labrum) are all fully cleared for camp.
“They’ll be full-speed,” Muschamp said. “We’ll monitor their reps, obviously, as we work through camp.”
The Gators will open the 2013 season ranked in a familiar spot.
Florida debuted at No. 10 in the USA Today Coaches Poll; the same position it finished the 2012 campaign.
Thursday’s preseason rankings are the highest for the Gators since 2010 (No. 3).
Muschamp was particularly impressed, bitingly quipping, "It's really important."
UF was one of five Southeastern Conference schools in the coaches’ top 10, including Alabama (No. 1), Georgia (No. 5), Texas A&M (No. 6) and South Carolina (No. 7).
In addition to squaring off against eastern division foes Georgia and South Carolina, Florida will also play intra-state rival Florida State (No. 12) and LSU (No. 13).
The Associated Press poll is scheduled for release on Aug. 17.
Sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison remains suspended and will not be in camp until a later date.
NEWEST GRAD ASSISTANTS
The Gators announced former defensive end Duke Lemmens (2007-10) and quarterback Chris Leak (2003-06) were both accepted into graduate school and will be assistants for Florida this fall.
Both ex-players received rather hasty promotions after originally serving as quality-control coaches (glorified interns) during the spring and summer periods.
As graduate assistants, Leak and Lemmens are now allowed to work with players during practice.
Under NCAA guidelines, quality-control coaches are permitted to scout opponents and break down film, but cannot have any contact or access with players during practice sessions.
Meanwhile, former Florida All-American Mike Peterson (1995-98) will be around the program as he completes his undergraduate degree requirements.
“A woodpecker is never going to have a concussion. I bet you didn’t know that. That’s a true story. They have an extra bone in their neck. You learn something new every day.”
--- Muschamp on injury recovery time being different for every player
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