The Florida Gators suffered a big blow to their spring depth chart with the news that early enrollee, Alex Anzalone, will sit out the rest of spring practice after undergoing surgery on Monday to repair a torn labrum.
Will Muschamp said that Anzalone is expected to go through a rehab program, but should be ready for fall practice.
“It was a freak deal.” Muschamp said. “It was in a tackling drill. He just got hit on it the wrong way. Disappointed for him but he’s going to be a really good player, so we’re going to be fine.”
Having gone through a similar injury, I know what kind of rehab is ahead of Anzalone and he should be able to get back on the field, if not near the end of summer, then by fall.
Having three linebackers enroll early softened the blow of losing both Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic, but now just one of those freshmen, Daniel McMillian, is healthy.
While the Gators will be fine in the long run, Anzalone’s injury leaves them with just five healthy linebackers for the remainder of spring camp. Antonio Morrison, Michael Taylor, Neiron Ball, Darrin Kitchens, Jeremi Powell and McMillian will take all the reps from here on out.
The problem with being so thin at linebacker is the risk of more injury. Florida really can’t afford to lose any more linebackers and we could see additional players cross-trained at linebacker to build some depth.
Both players that come to mind instantly have been moved to fullback this offseason into take some of the reps off of Hunter Joyer. Joyer is the unquestioned starter at the position and the moves of Rhaheim Ledbetter and Gideon Ajagbe were simply to give Joyer some reps off in the spring.
Ajagbe was a linebacker until being moved to fullback this offseason and is the most likely candidate to slide back to the defensive side of the ball to help with depth. Ajagbe has been impressive in his new role but he has the size and knowledge of the defense to be able to make a seamless transition if that is a move the coaching staff deems necessary.
Ledbetter is a physical safety who’s playing style suits what Muschamp is looking for on defense. While he is a little undersized to play linebacker, he knows the defensive schemes and is a potential option to fill in if need be.
The important thing now is to keep the remaining players at the position healthy. Daniel McMillian is a player that will benefit from the numbers at linebacker and should see an increase in his reps as he continues to learn the defensive schemes and adjust to the speed of the game.
Coach Muschamp is right; the Gators are going to be fine at linebacker in the fall. They just need to get to the fall healthy.