Florida Gators senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley, a leader of the defense and one of the unit’s most explosive players through the team’s three games, will miss the rest of the 2013 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial meniscus in his right knee during practice on Tuesday.
Head coach Will Muschamp officially announced Easley’s injury on Wednesday afternoon after downplaying it earlier in the day during the weekly SEC football coaches’ media teleconference.
“I talked to Dominique and the team this afternoon and we will continue to look for his leadership and experience throughout the season. Watching any of your players go through this is one of the hardest things about being a coach,” he said in a school release. “Obviously, it is hardest on Dominique. We are disappointed for him, but we will be there for him every step of the way through his surgery and rehab process.”
“It was non-contact,” said defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin on Wednesday. “He was turning, running on a screen pass and just tweaked it a little bit, it looked like on tape.”
Easley is the second big-time starter and team leader to go down for the Gators in a four-day span as Florida also lost junior quarterback Jeff Driskel to a broken right fibula during Saturday’s 31-17 victory over Tennessee.
“Gatornation thank you for all of 4 yrs of sticking wi th me but god has something else planned for and have no worries #believe,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
He is also the sixth UF player (fourth starter) to suffer a season-ending injury joining Driskel (ACL), redshirt junior right tackle Chaz Green (labrum), redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose (ACL), freshman defensive back Nick Washington (shoulder) and freshman linebacker Matt Rolin (ACL). Green, Debose and Rolin were each knocked out for the season during fall camp.
Easley returned for his senior season at the behest of his mother to get his degree; he also wanted to leave his mark on the Gators football program and improve his stock heading into the 2014 NFL Draft.
He was on his way to doing all three this season, finishing his education while leading Florida with four quarterback hurries through three games.
“Dominique is a guy that has a great motor, great enthusiasm as you can see on the field. I think that’s a contagious thing. He’s been very disruptive to many teams in the backfield. He plays the game the way we want guys to play on defense,” Durkin explained. “With all that being said, he’s a part of a whole team of guys that I think are playing well and doing things. That’s the way we want to play on defense, and I think he epitomizes that, but I think other guys do as well.”
Many analysts mocked Easley as a first-round selection in the upcoming draft. He likely would have been a late-second day pick if he left following his junior season.
Now his football-playing future is unfortunately up in the air.
The Gators must now focus on replacing Easley, though making up for his lost production will certainly be a much more difficult task.
Junior Darious Cummings, who registered his first career interception against Tennessee, is listed as second on the depth chart, but Florida will also start working freshman Jay-nard Bostwick into the mix for playing time.
“I’m very confident in those guys,” said Durkin of his reserves along the defensive line. “The way we practice and prepare and test our guys every day, I feel confident with every guy we have running out there.
“I think our guys understand there is a standard in our room that we have to play up to. They know that. Not just coming from myself and our staff but also from the other players in our room. They hold those guys accountable and to the standard.
“We recruit great players here and their job is to come in when their number’s called, get in there and play.”
Photo Credit: CBS Sports