Gators BUCK Dante Fowler Jr. puts pressure on Miami QB Stephen Morris.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators wrapped up their off-week preparations in the weight room on Friday.
Following their workout sessions, players began to scatter in various directions for a rare early season bye week.
Offensive lineman Jon Halapio tweeted he was headed home to St. Petersburg. Receiver Quinton Dunbar posted he was off to Baltimore. Whatever plans they have for the weekend, the Gators return to practice Monday to start preparing for Tennessee.
Following their 21-16 loss at Miami, the bye week came at a good time based on Florida coach Will Muschamp’s injury report this week.
Several players came away from the Miami game hobbled by injuries, the most serious a season-ending shoulder injury suffered by freshman defensive back Nick Washington. He is scheduled to have surgery Monday.
“He was reaching in for a ball in a non-contact injury,’’ Muschamp said, adding that Washington had a previous shoulder in jury in high school. “It's unfortunate that happened. He was really progressing well at defensive back and on special teams.”
Quarterback Jeff Driskel (sprained knee), right tackle Tyler Moore (sprained ankle), left tackle D.J. Humphries (sprained knee), safety Marcus Maye (shoulder), and defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. (hip) also suffered injuries at Miami.
Meanwhile, starting right guard Halapio, who missed the first two games of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle, was expected to return to contact drills at practice Wednesday and Muschamp is hopeful Halapio can make his season debut against the Volunteers. The status of linebacker Darrin Kitchens (strained oblique muscle) remains uncertain. Kitchens did not play at Miami after getting hurt in the season opener.
Driskel, who passed for a career-high 291 yards at Miami, was on crutches in class this week as a precautionary move.
“He'll be fine for Tennessee,” Muschamp said on this week’s SEC media teleconference. “It's precautionary. We're trying to get him off his knee a little bit. We have a long season ahead of us.”
The open week not only gave Driskel’s knee time to heal, but provided the junior time to study film of his three turnovers at Miami and make corrections in practice. Driskel finished 22-for-33 against the Hurricanes but threw two interceptions in the red zone and had a fumble that led to a Miami touchdown.
“We’re going to have to respond from this and not hang our heads,’’ Driskel said. “It is frustrating right now but we’ve got a lot of football to play this year.”
Muschamp was straight forward when asked what the Gators worked on early in the week at practice.
“Ball security. Take care of the football,” he said. “Scoring in the red zone and end every possession with a kick. If you do that, you win the game. We just need to take care of the football.
“Give [Miami] credit. They took advantage of our mistakes.”
Note: Muschamp said that true freshman offensive tackle Roderick Johnson, listed at 6-foot-6, 316 pounds from American Heritage High in Delray Beach, will likely redshirt this season. Johnson returned to practice this week after missing fall camp with a knee injury.