GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida defensive line coach Chris Rumph is always good for an entertaining quote, and he delivered again Wednesday while talking about his ailing and battered group of linemen.
Senior nose tackle Joey Ivie (thumb) and redshirt-junior defensive end Jordan Sherit (knee) have missed the last two games while redshirt-senior defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. (hand) injured himself in pregame two Saturdays ago and did not play against Missouri.
That’s three of the four starters up front and the other, redshirt-junior defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, has been playing through a hand injury.
“You know what, where I’m from they’ve got this thing they call the root doctor. You go to the root doctor and get all kind of stuff to fix things. So I’m thinking about making a trip to the root doctor and see if I can get some ointment or something to put on these guys,” Rumph joked.
He didn’t provide any definitive status updates, but he did indicate Cox is trying to push through the injury and that Sherit wants to return to action this week. The coaches and medical staff are still evaluating both players. As for Ivie, Rumph did not offer much update beyond acknowledging that he’s close to a return.
“We’ll see what happens. I know Cox was out there yesterday and right now he’s still here or there. So whatever the doctors decide then we’ll go with and hopefully we’ll have him available,” he said. “… Sherit, he was out there a little bit, bouncing around a little bit. We’ve just got to make sure that he’s full go and he can do the things that we’re asking him to do. And he wants to go so if you ask him he’s going to tell you, ‘I’m good, coach. I’m fine. I’m ready.’ But we’ve got to really see him turn it loose. So hopefully today, tomorrow we get a chance to open him up a little bit and see what he can do.”
Asked how exactly Cox injured himself so significantly during pregame warmups, Rumph claimed it was the first time in his career he could recall such a thing.
“I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure it out,” he said. “He just came up to me and said, ‘Coach, I need somebody to go in for me.’ We’re doing our little team stuff and I’m like, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘I think I hurt my hand, just jammed my hand a little bit.’ I said, ‘All right,’ and the next thing I know, boom, he’s out. So I’m like, ‘Wow.’ The first time for me (seeing) something like that, a broken hand or whatever in the pregame.”
Rumph noted that while the injury losses have obviously been a negative for Florida, there is also some positive that has come from the situation as some of the Gators’ young defensive linemen have been pressed into bigger roles, gaining valuable experience.
Obviously redshirt-freshman defensive end Jabari Zuniga has been the standout of the bunch, racking up a team-leading 5 sacks this season. Rumph also highlighted the play of redshirt-sophomore nose tackle Khairi Clark, redshirt-sophomore defensive tackle Taven Bryan and sophomore defensive end Keivonnis Davis.
Pro Football Focus had Bryan graded as one of the Gators’ top performers in the win over Missouri.
“I think it’s a good thing because we’ve had the chance to see some young guys step into some roles and get some snaps that they probably wouldn’t have gotten this year, so it’s a good thing and it’s a bad thing,” Rumph said. “But we’ve got some guys. It will get bad when you see me out there stretching and getting ready to go in. So it’s not that bad yet. …
“But I think the injuries, again, you don’t want to see them happen, but they’re going to happen. It was good just to see some of those young guys step up and play really well. And the lights (weren’t) too bright for them, and now, I’m telling you, the flip side on what it’s created is it’s created competition now. So now those guys, you know, they’ve tasted some of that stuff and how it feels and now they don’t want to relinquish it. And now the old guys are like, ‘Hold, hold on now, I’m the big dog here.’ But they’re in there scrapping for it, ‘I’m that dude now.’ So it’s creating competition, which is always good.”