The bye week has done wonders for the health of the No. 11 Florida Gators. With so many players on the mend from relatively minor injuries, Florida has been able to stack its depth chart and retool ahead of its rivalry showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida.
“This was a great week for us,” Gators head coach Jim McElwain said Monday. “It looks good. We had a pretty good week off as far as getting those guys back.”
Among those coming back for Florida are redshirt freshman tight end C’yontai Lewis (broken hand) and redshirt sophomore safety Marcell Harris (high-ankle sprain), both of whom should step into immediate playing time on offense and defense, respectively. Lewis had two receptions for 44 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener before going down with an injury in Week 2.
A pair of redshirt freshmen offensive linemen, Travaris Dorsey and Kavaris Harkless, will also be back in action providing depth at a position of serious need. The Gators’ young and inexperienced group, which entered the season already lacking depth, was put in a tough position with both Dorsey and Harkless out of action.
Finally, redshirt sophomore running back Case Harrison, a walk-on who received a scholarship ahead of the season, is back in action after a thumb injury kept him out multiple weeks. Harrison is seen by McElwain as a key member of Florida’s special teams units and has made a couple standout plays already this season.
The Gators are hoping to win their second straight game against the Bulldogs after dropping three consecutive contests from 2011-13. Florida has not won a single game in the series without it being part of an extended streak since 1986.
Though the Gators held walk-on kicker tryouts in the bye week, the competition for an open spot – or two, or three – is not done just yet.
McElwain on Monday called the competition and response to the open tryout “great” but said the battle would continue into this week with “about three guys that passed through” the first practice.
I’m more worried about now they actually have to put a uniform on as far as which way the helmet goes and how to put thigh pads in so it doesn’t go wrong,” he joked. “That’ll be interesting to see how they do with actually people around as we kind of move forward.”
The goal for Florida is to have whoever is chosen backup redshirt sophomore Austin Hardin, who played off the bench against LSU but is still dealing with a hip flexor issue.
“It’s up to him; he’s been hurt,” McElwain said. “We’ll see, but we need to get another kicker there, obviously. We’ll find out which one can do it.”
McElwain also mentioned that he is not against using more than one kicker, splitting duties between kickoffs, short field goals and long field goals.