Being the No. 11 team in the nation does not come without its share of distractions and obstacles, and the Florida Gators most certainly have another as they gear up for Saturday afternoon’s more-important-than-usual game against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Sophomore starting left tackle David Sharpe will miss the Vanderbilt game with an undisclosed foot injury. Head coach Jim McElwain announced Monday that Sharpe is in a big boot and will be unable to go.
Florida could get along without Sharpe, but the Gators may also be without five-star freshman Martez Ivey, who has been playing guard next to Sharpe and is dealing with a swollen knee that could keep him out of the contest. That means UF could potentially be without the entire left side of the offensive line against a Commodores defense that is much better than many recognize. (Vanderbilt is 22nd in total defense, 24th in scoring defense nationally.)
One of Florida’s known issues entering the 2015 season was its thin offensive line, which was inexperienced as is and simply could not sustain a significant number of injuries throughout the year. Just one week after the Gators got back two redshirt freshman reserves in Travaris Dorsey and Kavarris Harkless, the team will have to make due without one starter and potentially the left side of its line.
“We’ve got some things we need to adjust up front. That’s all part of the game,” McElwain said. “It was really exciting to see some of the guys that came back.”
The coach noted that freshman Fred Johnson will take snaps in Ivey’s place during practice this week. The hope is that Johnson will be prepared enough to spell Ivey in Saturday’s game, allowing Ivey to play a reduced number of snaps and stay fresh in the contest … if he plays at all.
“Whoever lines up on the offensive line, they will do a heck of a job, and I’ll be excited for them to play,” McElwain added. “They’ll do a great job, and they’ll get more reps in practice, obviously. They’ll go to work and help us win a ballgame.”