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Wednesday April 11, 2012 Muschamp optimistic McCray, others can help overcome Powell's loss; Alajajian has wrist surgery

Lerentee McCray

Photo: Gators LB Lerentee McCray (No. 34) is potential replacement for Ronald Powell at "buck" position.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The day before the Orange & Blue Debut spring game, Gators coach Will Muschamp was asked what he wanted to see most in Florida’s final outing of spring camp.

“Stay healthy’’ was his response.

The Gators accomplished that for the most part on Saturday, but the one player they lost to an injury is an important one: junior defensive end/linebacker Ronald Powell.

Powell suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and is expected to be out four to six months.

“If there is anybody who can get back from this and help us in the fall it’s him,’’ Muschamp said Wednesday morning as he continued his evaluation of spring camp. “The guy has worked extremely hard.”

While Powell’s absence opens a big hole on the defensive front, Muschamp is confident the Gators have enough depth to find production from other players.

While linebacker Lerentee McCray did not participate due to a shoulder injury, Muschamp expects him to be cleared to return to full-contact drills by mid-June and help offset Powell’s loss from the lineup.

“Lerentee has played the “buck” position before, so he is obviously the next guy,’’ Muschamp said. “And we will have to rely on some younger players coming along.”

With McCray likely to move up front, that opens a starting spot at linebacker alongside returning starters Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins that could be filled Mike Taylor or true freshman Antonio Morrison. Another player expected in the mix for playing time is Neiron Ball, who has not played since 2010 but is physical and athletic enough to play perhaps at buck or linebacker.

Regardless of how the situation plays out, Muschamp likes the talent he has to work with at linebacker if McCray moves up front full-time to replace Powell.

“Jelani and John both did a nice job,’’ Muschamp said. “Mike Taylor and Antonio Morrison did some good things. I feel good about that position.”

Meanwhile, junior defensive tackle Dominique Easley continues to rehab from a torn ACL he suffered in the Florida State game. Easley did not participate in spring camp but Muschamp said he is “really progressing well” and should be cleared around June 1 for regular drills.

Two other returning starters on defense to miss time in spring – safety Matt Elam (groin) and cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck) – should be full-go by the time fall camp starts according to Muschamp.

Reserve defensive tackle Nick Alajajian, who moved from offensive line this spring, underwent successful surgery on his right wrist on Tuesday. Alajajian is expected to wear a cast for six weeks and be fully recovered when fall camp starts in August.

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