Florida player availability improves as Gators prep for pivotal rivalry tilt vs. Georgia

By Adam Silverstein
November 4, 2020
Florida player availability improves as Gators prep for pivotal rivalry tilt vs. Georgia
Football

Image Credit: Tiffany Franco / UAA

After dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that hamstrung the program for three weeks, the No. 8 Florida Gators appear to be in good shape heading into their annual rivalry game this Saturday against the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs. Not only is Florida rested after 14 days off and a game last week in which it was able to take its starter out in the fourth quarter, it looks to have a significant amount of players active following stints in isolation or quarantine.

How many players will be active for the Gators it not quite known. Head coach Dan Mullen has refused to release availability information related to COVID-19 and extended that decision to include availability related to injuries. However, in data released by UF on Tuesday, the football program reported no new positive COVID-19 cases over the last seven days, including thus far as Florida-Georgia week begins.

The Gators had 15 total players miss last week’s game, including two known inactives due to injury. Among the other 13 out of action were eight defensive backs, including three starters, plus a couple key backups at other positions. Mullen is hopeful Florida will be better positioned to put a more complete team on the field Saturday.

That will not be the case for Georgia, which looks to be down three defensive starters — All-American safety Richard LeCounte and defensive linemen Jordan Davis and Julian Rochester — due to injury. LeCounte was involved in a traffic accident on Saturday night; after some initial concerns about his health, it looks like he will be OK long-term. There is no information about whether the Bulldogs will have any COVID-19 absences.

“We’ve been down a bunch of players all year. You want to see the best players on each team play,” Mullen said Wednesday. “… Everybody wants to see the best of both teams play. Any time you have the injuries — and this is such a unique year with the COVID stuff happening, it’s kind of just 2020, how it is. … We’ve been down numbers all year and had that same next-man-up mentality.”

Mullen has consistently expressed how much pride he feels about the way the Gators have handled COVID-19 and the adversity they’ve faced in 2020.

With Election Day on Tuesday, the team also dealt with a non-typical game week schedule. Florida had an NCAA mandated day off Tuesday that forced them to shift around their schedule with the team meeting and practicing on Sunday, while Mullen’s coaching staff spent Tuesday in the office working.

Among the other changes this week are the Gators’ preparations to play another game away from home. Florida believes the difficulties of quarantining on a trip to Texas A&M were the reasons for the COVID-19 outbreak within the team, so it has adjusted for the trip to Jacksonville, Florida.

The Gators will take five buses to Jacksonville instead of three and are now assigning seats for meals in addition to on vehicles and in locker rooms. Speaking of locker rooms, Mullen is pleased that the one at TIAA Bank Field is far larger than the box that visitors get to use at Texas A&M.

Perhaps now that Florida can put the COVID-19 outbreak and the myriad adversities that 2020 has brought in the rear-view mirror — at least for now — it can focus on its biggest game of the season.

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