Muschamp Monday Media: Gator Football News & Notes

“Really disappointing news with (offensive tackle) Chaz Green, he’s going to have to have surgery this week to repair a labrum.” Will Muschamp

On the heels of losing senior wide receiver Andre Debose to a season ending injury, Florida Gator head football coach Will Muschamp announced today that right tackle Chaz Green is lost for the season as well. An injured labrum that the staff felt may be a minor injury was discovered to be much worse after an MRI was done and the medical staff determined that it will require season ending surgery to repair. Green, who played through an ankle injury last season and was battling transfer Tyler Moore for the starting job at right tackle, was expected to start there against Toledo as Moore fills in for injured right guard Jon Halapio. Instead he’ll have to watch as junior college transfer Trenton Brown fills that spot. It’s a big blow to lose an experienced player at such an important position but Muschamp thinks they’ll be fine with the level of depth the Gators have this season.

“Chaz was playing his best football,” Muschamp said. “He was playing extremely well. But we do have depth on the offensive line, still feeling good at right tackle with Tyler Moore and Trenton Brown.”

Speaking of Halapio, he continues to make progress rehabbing from a torn pec muscle which has sidelined him for all of preseason.,

” John Halapio continues to progress well,” according to Muschamp. “I think, again, he’ll be cleared for Tennessee. To have that open week before that game I think that will give him enough time to fill in the pec.”

Halapio is a senior and fourth year starter and one of the unquestioned leaders of the Gator offense. It’s very important for the Gator’s to get him back healthy and in the lineup particularly for the run game. Luckily with Moore’s versatility and the versatility of backups Kyle Koehne, Trip Thurman, and Ian Silberman, the Gators should be able to cover ably in his absence the first two weeks of the season.

Another starter who will miss game one versus Toledo is running back Matt Jones. Like Halapio, he’s missed the entirety of the preseason, out due to a severe viral infection which dropped fifteen pounds of his frame. The medical staff has been monitoring him closely as he eases back into shape. He’s gained some of the weight back and is slowing working back into playing shape but the medical staff is concerned about a possible relapse so they have certainly been taking it slowly. The good news is the staff expects him to be cleared for action next week as the Gators prepare for a rare in-state matchup with the Miami Hurricanes.

“Matt Jones continues to progress and do well,” Muschamp said. “I certainly think he’ll be available next week. He’s getting some more blood work done today and as we work through it, unless we have some sort of set back, I think that’s(his return next week) going to happen.”

Moreso than Halapio, Matt Jones return is critical. In Muschamp’s downhill running game, a big, strong back capable of hitting the hole quickly and making his cut is a necessity. After losing 1,000 yard rusher Mike Gillislee to graduation after last season, Matt Jones is the only experienced running back to return. Jones really came on at the end of last season and showed a lot of promise in the season finale against the Florida State Seminoles. In his place, career backup Mack Brown will take his place and he will be backed up by former walk-on Mark Herndon and converted defensive back Valdez Showers, a former high school running back. Between the three, only Brown has taken a snap for the Gators with 40 career carries for 167 yards.

On a positive note, suspended starting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison had his two game suspension reduced to one game by coach Muschamp.

“After a thorough review of Antonio Morrison’s situation and how he’s handled his punishment, I’m going to suspend him for this game only,” Muschamp announced today. “I just don’t feel like his actions warranted a two game suspension.”

Morrison, who was arrested back in June for punching a bouncer at a local Gainesville bar, was suspended for two games by coach Muschamp after getting arrested again for barking at a police dog. That arrest was subsequently criticized by the Alachua county sheriff as being unnecessary and charges were later dropped by the State’s Attorney’s office.  Since that point, Morrison has done everything asked of him by Muschamp including sitting out the first week of fall camp.

“He’s (Morrison) very remorseful about the whole situation, and we’ve moved forward,” according to Muschamp. “Guys make mistakes and have poor judgement at times. I’m just disappointed in how the entire night was handled.”

Morrison will be counted on heavily by the Gators this fall as he moves into Jon Bostic’s old spot at middle linebacker. The likely starter for the game against Toledo will be backup Michael Taylor who, despite being a career backup, has a lot of experience.

In an interesting note for fans, Muschamp announced a plan to honor Mr. Two Bits, George Edmondson, Jr. a Swamp fixture since 1949. The plan is to have a guest Gator “celebrity” reprise the Mr. Two Bits role for every Gator home game. First up is Gator great running back Errict Rhett this Saturday for the Toledo game. Rhett is the Gator’s career rushing leader finishing with 4,163 yards and 34 touchdowns playing for Steve Spurrier from 1990 to 1993. He led the Gators in rushing all four of his seasons and may be best known for his two touchdown 183 yard performance in the rain in the 1993 Florida-Georgia game leading Florida to a hard fought 33-26 victory.

The staff released the official game one depth chart which had few surprises. Most notable was Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook number one and two tight ends ahead of heralded sophomore Colin Thompson. Sophomore Kent Taylor, considered the best receiver of the group was left off the depth chart altogether. What that means as far as him playing this season remains to be seen. Also, it appears that redshirt freshman kicker Austin Harden has separated himself from Brad Phillips in the kicking competition and has won both the kickoff and placekicking duties. This was arguably the biggest battle in preseason camp and with Phillips groin injury plaguing him through the whole of camp, Harden has appeared to stake his claim on the job to replace all time leading kicker Caleb Sturgis.

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