The early report Florida’s injured senior tailback DeShawn Wynn is that he’s questionable at best for next Saturday’s game in The Swamp against tenth-ranked LSU. Wynn was scheduled to have an MRI on his knee Sunday morning but the extent of the damage won’t be known until Monday.
Wynn went down with a twisted knee in Saturday’s 28-13 win over Alabama. He took an option pitch from Chris Leak, cut upfield and was into the Alabama secondary when he was upended. The injury apparently occurred after Wynn hit the turf and an Alabama player fell on top of him.
Wynn finished the game with 12 carries for 50 yards and he had one pass reception for 15 yards. For the season, Wynn is Florida’s leading rusher with 359 yards on 64 carries, a 5.5 average per carry. He’s scored three touchdowns.
“Right now he’s questionable for Saturday,” said Coach Urban Meyer on his Sunday morning teleconference, adding that there might be a nugget of good news in that “right now they do not believe it’s a tear. They believe it’s a sprain.”
If Wynn can’t go against LSU, the fifth-ranked Gators will likely start sophomore Kestahn Moore at taiback. In Saturday’s game against Alabama, Moore had five carries for 20 yards and one reception for 10 yards. For the season, Moore has 160 yards rushing (5.3 per carry) and two touchdowns to go with five receptions for 44 yards and one touchdown.
The injury will also force the Gators to get other tailbacks on their roster ready to go as the number two back. Freshman Brandon James saw some action at tailback against Alabama, getting one carry for four yards. Third-year sophomore Markus Manson could also see some playing time against LSU. He’s been relatively obscure through five games with only two carries and three net yards.
“Markus has made a little push,” said Meyer. “In the last week he’s made a couple of plays [in practice]. The problem is that the evaluation of a tailback happens in the spring. We have to prepare for excellent football teams now so it’s not a tryout camp anymore. When you get a guy injured you have to get a guy ready. Markus has shown some improvement and now is the time that when someone gets dinged up someone has to play. Your educated guess would be Markus Manson would take that step but he has to do it on Tuesday and Wednesday [in practice].”
Meyer said that a healthy Percy Harvin would also find some plays in the tailback package but he’s still trying to get back to full speed after a high ankle sprain suffered against Tennessee. When Harvin went down against the Vols, the Gators lost one of their top playmakers.
“A lot of that game plan was built around Percy Harvin and when he went down that left a lot of us scrambling,” said Meyer.
Harvin has 145 receiving yards and 83 rushing yards as a true freshman. He’s averaging more than 14 yards every time he touches the ball.
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The Gators have made two comebacks in their three SEC games, both from 10-point deficits to pull out critical wins. The Gators rallied from a 17-7 deficit against Tennessee in Knoxville and they came back from 10-0 Saturday against Alabama. Meyer gave credited his seniors for setting the tone for making comebacks.
“This year’s senior class I would say 99% of them contribute in one way or another,” said Meyer. “Even those that don’t play a lot are helping. With a small, ineffective senior class I would say it’s impossible to come back from those kind of deficits, especially against Tennessee.”
Critical in Florida’s comeback ability and their ability to win tough games against outstanding opponents has been their ability to stay focused on the game at hand rather than look at the Gators’ murderer’s row schedule. Meyer said it’s a credit to his players that they’re taking it one play at a time rather than looking ahead.
“The only chance for survival in this conference is you’re worried one play, one series, one quarter, one half at a time,” said Meyer. “Who’s setting the tone? It’s Chris Leak, Jemalle Cornelius, Brandon Siler, Earl Everett … it’s the players.”
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The Gators came up with three interceptions against Alabama Saturday, two by Ryan Smith and one by Reggie Nelson, whose 70-yard return for a touchdown sealed the win for Florida. Meyer said that there is a correlation between interceptions and getting pressure on the quarterback.
“The interception by Reggie Nelson was a throw that quarterback early in the game would not make,” said Meyer. “I put that throw to pressure that our defensive line was putting on him. At that point in the game he just threw it up. Protecting the quarterback equates to turnovers; if we’re hitting that quarterback we’re going to get the ball thrown to us.”
The Gators got outstanding pass rush from ends Jarvis Moss (1.5 sacks for 13 yards in losses, 1 quarterback hurry) and Derrick Harvey (1 sack for 12 yard loss and three hurries).
Florida felt the absence of nose tackle Marcus Thomas, who has been suspended indefinitely. He had three sacks on the season when he was suspended prior to the Kentucky game. In his absence, and with the high ankle sprain to Clint McMillan, the Gators had Javier Estopinan playing the nose tackle.
Estopinan is not the pass rusher that Thomas is but Meyer praised him for his tough work in the trenches.
“He’s a battler,” said Meyer. “He holds his gap and he’s a fighter. He’s a tough guy, the kind of people that we want in our program.”
McMillan couldn’t contribute in the defensive line rotation but he was on the punt coverage team.
“Clint has an ankle sprain and I couldn’t take him off punt because I needed him,” said Meyer. “If you watch he couldn’t run down the field but he’s my quarterback for the punt team. He got us in the right calls. He’s a tough guy.”
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Chris Leak’s 45-yard run was the longest by a Florida quarterback since 1977 (Terry LeCount vs. Georgia). At the end of his run, Leak was the most excited man in the stadium, leaping up and down and exhorting the crowd to get even rowdier. It was a rather unusual display of emotion by the normally reserved Leak and it’s something Meyer likes.
“It was great,” said Meyer. “I saw it last year at Tennessee when he made a great run. I do believe that Chris needs to show more of that. I think he’s doing a great job.”
Meyer thinks displays of enthusiasm by the players are a part of college football and he’s all for it as long as “it’s not silly and degrading to your opponents I think that’s a big part of the game.”
Meyer believes it’s the emotion that separates college football from other sports. The crowds are more passionate about their teams, there’s more tradition and there’s plenty of pageantry.
“College football, especially in this stadium we play in, emotion is a big part of it,” he said.
Meyer also appreciates Florida’s rowdy student body that sticks around after the game to sing the Florida fight song in the northeast corner of the stadium with the players and the marching band.
“They [student body] have a lot of things going on,” said Meyer. “They don’t have to act like that and behave like that and support their players. The minute you quit appreciating what you’ve got you’re going to lose it. I know they [Florida players] love playing in that stadium. I know that student body. They love to stick around and sing that fight song with their classmates.
“Some people say what does that have to do with winning? They don’t understand college football in my mind. It’s a team effort. It’s our players love to play in front of our students and our students love to support them. They’re hard to beat when we have that combination going.”