Sorry I’m not sorry for the cheap title.
ICYMI: My piece on No. 20 Florida losing its most indispensible player -- other than its quarterback, which you know, happened four days earlier.
As noted: the Gators have twice as many season-ending injuries (six) than games played (three) in 2013. Florida's lost four starters for the year -- quarterback Jeff Driskel, right tackle Chaz Green, kick returner/wideout Andre Debose and Easley.
Coach Will Muschamp’s “Man Down, Man Up” may still have some motivational luster left, but Florida is not-so-slowly running out of men.
Dominique Easley’s latest knee injury is UF’s most devastating loss to date.
From a bird’s eye view, Easley was the nation’s top (or among a select few) defensive tackle -- even if his stats do little justice to support that claim.
There’s a reason Dante Fowler Jr. endlessly thanked Easley following his career performance against Tennessee (3 TFL, 2 FF), earning the sophomore SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
Said Fowler: “He busts his stuff up and I’m on the outside, so when they see everything clogged up, the first thing they’re gonna do is bounce outside, and that’s all me. I get to make all the plays. Yesterday I thanked him. Thank you for letting me make all those plays.”
Check out this YouTube video (Courtesy of @DraftBreakdown) of Easley’s performance against the Volunteers.
Consistent disruption. Constant double-teams. Infinite energy.
You can’t help but hurt for the Gators’ loco leader. Easley, a senior, can apply for a medical redshirt, but that seems largely like a technical and empty recourse now.
Easley flirted with the NFL after last season, only to return to Gainesville because: “My mother wanted me to get my diploma. And for the simple fact that I don’t believe I left my mark here at Florida the way that I want to leave it.”
Three games into 2013, Easley had left plenty a mark.
The 6-foot-2, 285-pound lifelike Chuckie doll had skyrocketed up NFL Draft boards. Sports Illustrated released its latest mock draft (two days before Easley was hurt) and slotted him at No. 15 overall. ESPN Scouts Inc. tabbed him as the nation’s ninth-best draft-eligible prospect.
But now Easley faces plenty of unknowns, and so do the Gators.
Florida has depth -- inexperienced depth -- at defensive tackle, but there's no one to replicate Easley’s dominance at the point of attack or regular demanding of double-teams. JUCO-transfer Darious ‘Bear’ Cummings may slide into the starters role, and sophomore defensive end Jon Bullard could move inside too. Several freshmen will factor into the mix as well.
It’s a disconcerting situation -- no matter how defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin wants to spin it.
To me: Easley has been an even better interior presence than Sharrif Floyd in 2012 -- who was darn good and later a first-round draft pick.
Floyd was a prolific run-stopper, but he often-disappeared on passing/third-down situations. Easley’s dominance has been on an every-down basis.
The Gators top the country in third down defense (a ridiculous 18 percent conversion rate) and rush defense (55.33 y/g) and both areas are likely to regress in Easley’s absence.
UF’s defense will still be very good (see: Ronald Powell, Marcus Roberson, Vernon Hargreaves III, Antonio Morrison, Loucheiz Purifoy. Shall I continue?) But a (negative) trickle-down effect seems impossible to dodge.
The Gators were already an enigma two weeks ago, and now with the injuries to Driskel and Easley????
Who the hell knows what the future holds.Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton