The Florida Gators will be without three players for the first half of their week four matchup against Charlotte after the SEC handed out suspensions to OL Damieon George Jr, OL Micah Mazzccua, and TE Dante Zanders for the scrum that took place at the end of the Florida-Tennessee game.
“I think it was to be expected,” Head Coach Billy Napier said on the suspensions. “Regardless, there would have been in-house discipline, you know, so I think we landed about where we should have landed, truth be known.”
Napier assured the media that the three suspended players did some “in-house” work as well.
“They’ve done more besides just, you know, what the SEC has offered,” Napier said.
Florida will also be without starting center Kingsley Eguakun, who returned from a lower body injury in week three, but is back on the injury report prior to week four.
“He finished the game. I think he’s had some setbacks. I don’t necessarily think it’s a long-term issue,” Napier said on Eguakun. “He just wasn’t quite ready to practice today, yesterday. He was a little closer today but not quite ready to go. And typically if a guy doesn’t practice Tuesday, Wednesday for us, he doesn’t play. Not a drastic setback, but not quite where he needed to be to compete and play. And the position he plays is obviously part of that.”
That makes three starting offensive linemen unavailable for the first half against Charlotte, two due to a suspension and one due to injury.
“It’s no different than an injury,” Napier said on dealing with the suspensions. “I think you got to put yourself in position to win the game, and we’ve got guys that are gonna be, this is an opportunity. I think sometimes injuries, suspensions, if you want to live in that world, they create opportunities for other players, ones that have been working hard and will be looking forward to Saturday.”
Freshman OG Knijeah Harris and RT Lyndell Hudson are expected to start in place of the suspended offensive linemen in week four.
Harris has played in all three games, recording 68 combined snaps while playing at all three interior positions. Hudson has only seen action against McNeese State, recording all 41 snaps at right tackle. Neither player has allowed a pressure in 2023.
“We practice the way we’re going to start the game,” Napier said on how they rep the suspended players in practice. “And then obviously we rep two units the entire day. There’s an allocation of reps. In each position group, you’ve got a certain amount of reps in each practice and we literally, by the rep, ‘Hey, this guy’s gonna get 40 plays today. He’s gonna get 25. He’s gonna get whatever the case may be.’ So we just reallocated the reps.. One of the good things is going against the first defense in the good on good periods, which I think is helpful for them.”
Napier has previously stated that he wants to be able to work three tackles and four guards into each game, much like they did last season. This week’s game is an opportunity for Hudson and the rest of the Gators’ offensive line to lock down a reserve role in the rotation.
“We’re always looking for the third tackle. We’re always looking for the fourth-best inside player. Who’s the backup center,” Napier said. “We work contingency plans from the very beginning of the offseason. So you go to anticipate that there’s … history’s the best indicator of the future and these guys are going to get banged up at some points and you’ve got to be ready to go.”
Against McNeese State in week two, Florida worked 12 offensive linemen into the game. You should see a similar number appear against Charlotte as Florida is 27.5-point favorites and down three starting offensive linemen in the first half. I’m looking for Jalen Farmer, Jordan Herman, and Christian Williams to contribute as well.