Saturday’s loss to South Carolina not only marked the end of the road for Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp but also the end of the season for two of his linebackers as redshirt senior Neiron Ball and sophomore Jarrad Davis have been ruled out for the rest of 2014 with knee injuries.
Ball and Davis each underwent surgery Monday for a torn meniscus suffered in last weekend’s game, though Ball also required microfracture surgery. Both players will be out for approximately four months with the first six weeks of Ball’s recovery requiring him not to put any weight on his knee.
“I’m extremely disappointed for both of those guys and both were having great years,” said Muschamp on Monday. “Certainly get those guys rehabbed as quickly as possible.”
The news was better for the team on Wednesday as Muschamp announced that sophomore safety Keanu Neal (high-ankle sprain) and freshman defensive back Duke Dawson (turf toe) have both been cleared to face the Eastern Kentucky Colonels on Saturday at noon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Ball’s injury comes at a tough time for the fifth-year senior, who was having a breakout season after dealing with a loaded depth chart and health problems throughout his career at Florida. He had to be treated for a congenital vascular condition in February 2011, which was uncovered after serious head pain led to hospitalization. Ball took the entire 2011 season off to recover and regain his strength and spent the 2012 campaign getting back into the swing of things on the gridiron. In 2013, he started seven of the Gators’ 12 games and looked to be especially effective in his final season.
Starting at Sam linebacker, Ball was tied for second on the team this season with 49 total tackles (three for last yardage), adding five quarterback hurries, two sacks, a pass breakup and a forced fumble. He made enough of an impact with Florida to start drawing some attention from professional scouts ahead of the 2015 NFL Draft.
It is unlikely that Ball will be healthy enough to compete in the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine in February, but he may be able to rehabilitate enough to participate in Pro Day on campus ahead of the draft in May.
Sophomore Alex Anzalone will start in his place on Saturday.
A back-up Mike linebacker and special teams player who hurt his knee on the opening kickoff Saturday, Davis ends his season with 23 tackles (one for loss) and three quarterback hurries. He should be cleared for at least non-contact work in spring practice and be healed in time for summer practice in 2015.
Photo Credit: Palm Beach Post