The Florida Gators claim the title of DBU, but DBU is hurting mightily for more depth. It has gotten to the point that you can nearly count Florida’s healthy scholarship defensive backs on a single hand.
The Gators already lost star cornerback Marco Wilson earlier this season along with several other depth players. Now, it may be without its other major playmaker C.J. Henderson.
Henderson went down after combining with Adam Shuler on a tackle during Georgia’s first possession. He never returned, and as of now, the extent of his back injury is not known. Mullen did say he does not believe it is structural, but the medical staff will continue to evaluate it.
The Gators have been able to hold up in the secondary fairly well without Wilson this season, but the loss of Henderson became painstakingly obvious in the 36-17 loss to Georgia.
“You look at two of the best players on the team are your corners, we like to play man coverage and they’re both out,” said head coach Dan Mullen. “That’s a struggle. Probably not many teams can take that. Two of your best players, both of them play the same position and take them off the field. That makes it hard. But all year, we’ve had guys banged up, we’ve had guys injured and we’ve had different things happen. Next guy’s gotta step up and go make plays. There’s opportunities for people to go do that.”
But no one showed up to make plays in Henderson’s place Saturday. The Bulldogs picked on redshirt sophomore corner C.J. McWilliams all game long.
He gave up two of Georgia’s three passing touchdowns, and sophomore safety Donovan Stiner got beat by his receiver on the third to essentially put the nail in the coffin in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, promising sophomore defensive backs Brian Edwards and Brad Stewart were nowhere to be seen, possibly due to discipline issues, but Mullen would not specify.
With so much going against the position group, the Gators allowed Jake Fromm to complete 17 of his 24 passes for 240 yards.
And not to mention, every single one of Georgia’s touchdowns came on third down plays. Florida has been so good at coming up with stops on third down this season, but the defense couldn’t do it when it really mattered.
“They didn’t really do anything too special,” said junior linebacker David Reese. “We just didn’t make the plays when they needed to be made. We got beat deep in the pass game, you know. The depth did hurt us, of course. We lost Marco, C.J., so you know that obviously shown today.”
Florida’s passing defense has a lot to figure out with Drew Lock and the Missouri Tigers coming to town next week. If Henderson’s injury is severe enough to keep him off the field for an extended period of time, the Gators could be in deep trouble back there.
Saturday showed that he was the final bit of glue holding that secondary together, and there aren’t many options to fall back on.