GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of the Florida Gators’ preseason stars and a projected key cog in the secondary both left with injuries during the season opener Saturday night, and coach Jim McElwain didn’t offer any specifics as to the severity of either.
Junior slot receiver Dre Massey, who generated considerable hype over the last month, went down in the first half with a knee injury, and junior nickelback/cornerback Duke Dawson left with an unspecified arm injury.
“Dre Massey went down early. We’re going to have to take a good look at that. I’m not sure where that’s going to be,” McElwain said. “Duke Dawson went down with an arm injury. We’ll get that looked at. We held him out, but it enabled us to get Chauncey and Putu and Chris in there at corner a little bit. I thought that was good. That’s going to help us down the road a little bit.”
Massey, a junior college newcomer, forced his way atop the depth chart at slot receiver this preseason while pushing junior Brandon Powell to the outside. At least, that was the Gators’ plan coming into the night.
Massey didn’t catch any passes before going down with the injury. McElwain was asked if his eventual absence altered the game plan at all.
“There (were) some things we were going to do with him that we obviously held out. But we’ll go back and do some more,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dawson had been projected as a first-team cornerback this week as the Gators were also without junior star corner Jalen Tabor, who was serving a one-game suspension.
Like McElwain said, the absence of both led to more opportunities for sophomore Chris Williamson, true freshman Chauncey Gardner Jr. and junior newcomer Joseph Putu.
Williamson had a tough night, getting beat at the end of the first quarter for a 24-yard completion on fourth-and-14 and later for a 53-yard stop-and-go completion in the second quarter. Gardner finished with three tackles and a pass break-up.
Tabor will be back next week when Florida hosts Kentucky.
As for Massey and Dawson, McElwain will meet with the media again Monday, perhaps with a clearer indication of their statuses.
Ryan Young is a Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.