GAINESVILLE, Fla. — No. 3 Florida should have five starters back for its biggest game of the season.
Coach Will Muschamp said Monday he expects linebacker Jelani Jenkins, defensive end Dominique Easley, center Jon Harrison, guard James Wilson and left tackle Xavier Nixon to play against No. 9 South Carolina on Saturday.
They missed all or part of Saturday’s 31-17 win at Vanderbilt.
“We’re hopeful to have all those guys back,” Muschamp said. “They’re all definitely going to be fine or probable at the worst.”
Jenkins injured a hamstring against Louisiana State on Oct. 6, and Easley has missed two games this season with a left knee injury. The Gators certainly could use them to help slow down South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.
Harrison, Wilson and Nixon could be equally important to Florida’s success Saturday.
Harrison (arm) and Nixon (upper body) left Saturday’s game. Wilson didn’t even make the trip after injuring his eye in practice.
Even without the three starting offensive linemen, the Gators finished with 326 yards rushing against the Commodores. Guard Ian Silberman, center Sam Robey and freshman D.J. Humphries played well off the bench, opening holes for running back Mike Gillislee and quarterback Jeff Driskel.
“I don’t think there’s a drop-off,” defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. “Those guys come out each and every day at practice and they go just as hard as our No. 1 starters.”
Driskel ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns at Vanderbilt, the most rushing yards by a quarterback in school history.
“Whenever you have three starters go down, that’s huge, especially three O-linemen,” Driskel said. “But we had three guys who stepped up. That’s what we’ve been doing all year long. When a guy goes down, the next guy is going to have go up. We have great depth, and that really helped out. ... They were ready to play. That’s what you’re going to have to do as a backup. They got their chance and they shined.”
Also Monday, Muschamp said receiver Latroy Pittman is questionable with an ankle injury. Offensive tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral) and cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) won’t play Saturday.