The 2013 season was marred by injury. It started in the spring and carried into the summer and fall. Florida was seemingly snakebitten, helpless to try and piece together a team as players dropped left and right. The result was a 4-8 season and no bowl game.
The injuries from the fall are now effecting this spring’s practice. Colin Thompson, Leon Orr, Matt Jones, Matt Rolin, Andre Debose, Alex Anzalone, Jeremi Powell, freshman Brandon Powell and freshman Nolan Kelleher will miss all or portions of spring due to lingering issues from injury. Keanu Neal gets added to that list after missing a practice and a half when he tweaked a pre-existing hamstring in the very first practice.
While, some players are still battling injury, we wanted to go back and take a look at five players who went down with an injury last season that are expected to come back and play this season. These five players all either suffered an injury during the season or had an injury coming into school that prevented them from playing in 2013.
Spots are wide open this offseason and every player on this list will have an opportunity to earn playing time– if not an outright starting spot in 2014.
Rolin came to Florida after tearing his ACL during his senior season in high school. He was cleared to return to practice but re-tore the ACL and was forced to sit out his first year in Gainesville. The second ACL tear was a set back but Rolin has healed and is ok to workout.
He isn’t going through spring practice but will be cleared May 1, according to Muschamp.
Rolin was on pace to earn playing time last season on special teams and in certain situations on defense. He’s a strong, physical player that will compete for playing time at SAM linebacker when he returns to he field.
Matt Jones going down against LSU opened the door for Kelvin Taylor, who seized the opportunity and made the most of it.
But don’t forget about Jones.
His injury was far more serious than originally thought — it was originally believed to just be a minor meniscus tear — but turned out to be a radial tear, meaning the ligament was basically split in half.
Jones should be cleared and ready to go for summer workouts and when he comes back he won’t lay down and let Taylor hold on to the starting spot without a fight.
Florida’s up-tempo offense won’t hurt Jones — a power, one-cut type of back. Muschamp says the offense will still try to create one-on-one scenarios for the backs and that all of the running backs should be able to handle that.
Harris had knee surgery before arriving at Florida but the surgery didn’t go as expected. He didn’t expect to have to sit out his freshman season but a second surgery was required after he wasn’t able to find a comfort level on his surgically repaired knee.
Harris has returned this spring and is getting a ton of reps due to depth at safety. Marcus Maye and Jabari Gorman are running with the first team but Harris is right behind them.
You can’t think about the 2013 season without remembering Driskel going down with a broken leg against Tennessee. A tough player, everyone in the stadium that day knew something was wrong when the quarterback sat on the field, motioning for the training staff.
The importance of Driskel can be explained in the simple fact that spring practice was pushed back approximately 10 days to ensure that Driskel would be 100% ready to go through spring practice and lead the team.
Driskel is back, learning a third offense since he’s been at Florida but this is an offense that is similar to one he ran in high school. He’s adjusted well through the first two practices but the most important thing is just having him out there, running the team and the offense, while building relationships and chemistry with his teammates.
Sherit came to Florida with a knee injury. The training staff brought him along slowly, and he spent his first season working out and watching on the sidelines.
He’s back to full strength this season and has looked good through the first two practices this spring. Sherit has bulked up and is playing fast at Buck linebacker. Dante Fowler is getting the veteran treatment — limited reps at practice to keep him healthy — which is opening a door for Sherit.
If Sherit can keep up this level of play when the pads come on it will be hard to keep him off of the field when fall rolls around.