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Following up a Tuesday announcement that Florida Gators junior starting quarterback Jeff Driskel would miss up to two weeks after undergoing an appendectomy, head coach Will Muschamp announced at his first fall press conference on Thursday that two more starters – sophomore running back Matt Jones and redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio – will also be absent from the start of camp with ailments of their own.
Jones, who looks to follow Mike Gillislee as a 1,000-yard back for Florida in 2013, fell ill with a serious viral infection this week and is currently being treated by team doctors. He will remain out of action indefinitely.
“He came down with this in the last four or five days,” Muschamp said. “Right now, we’re filling him full of antibiotics. How his body responds will tell me how quickly he can come back. I probably won’t know definitively until the end of next week on that. It’s just one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of [gastrointestinal] issues right now, and he’s dealing with those things. He’s a guy that should be fine. Again, I just don’t know when he will return.”
Halapio, a projected second-day draft selection next year, partially tore a pectoral muscle in mid-July. Though the injury will not require surgery, he will not be reevaluated until Aug. 9, one full week into fall practice.
“Jon Halapio had a partial tear of his pec about three days after media days,” Muschamp said. “There’s no surgery needed. He will be back. It’s just I don’t know exactly when. He meets with the doctor again next Friday to find out exactly when he’ll be back in action.”
Muschamp then praised the team’s physicians for quickly determining why Driskel was sick and ensuring that he had the necessary procedure as soon as possible.
“Our medical staff did a fantastic job of identifying [Driskel’s acute appendicitis] early,” he said. “He ought to be fine. He’s going to be fine. Timetable, they say two weeks, it will probably be inside of two weeks based on the early diagnosis of where we are. He’s doing extremely well.”
He continued: “It’ll be a day-to-day process. Basically how it was explained to me [Thursday] is all they’re worried about is the sutures healing and there’s no infection. Once they get past that stage, it’s all a pain tolerance issue. And luckily, Jeff’s a tough guy, so it’s not going to be much of an issue for him. He wants to get back on the field, but we’re going to listen to our medical staff before him on those situations.”
Unfortunately for the Gators, Driskel, Jones and Halapio will not be the only three players unable to suit up in pads when practice opens on Friday.
Redshirt junior transfer Max Garcia, projected to be Florida’s starting left guard, recently had an old back injury flare up. Muschamp expects him to be cleared shortly after meeting with a back doctor on Aug. 6.
Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trip Thurman (shoulder) is expected to be cleared on Aug. 12, and freshman defensive end Jordan Sherit (torn meniscus) is only 70-75 percent healthy with an outside chance of being cleared on Aug. 19.
Additionally, redshirt senior OL Kyle Koehne will miss Friday’s practice as he has returned home following a death in the family, and sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison remains indefinitely suspended following multiple brushes with the law.
Though all the injury news is tough for a coach to hear, Jones being forced to miss extended time appears to have hit Muschamp the hardest.
“Ten percent of life is what happens to you; 90 percent is what you do with it. There is no better kid in that locker room than Matt Jones. He’s got full support from our staff, our medical staff. He’s an outstanding young man,” Muschamp said. “He is disappointed, but he’s not a guy that gets down very often, I can assure you of that. And Matt’s going to be fine; Matt will be fine.
Not all the news is bad as it pertains to Gators coming back from injury, however, as three of the team’s linebackers are finally healthy and will be active on Friday.
Redshirt junior Ronald Powell (torn ACL) and freshmen early enrollees Alex Anzalone (shoulder) and Matt Rolin (torn ACL) will all be on the field.
“They’ll be full speed, but we’ll monitor their reps obviously as they work through it.”
OnlyGators.com will be updating this story shortly.