GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida sophomore right guard Tyler Jordan met with reporters Monday for the first time since missing two games with an eye injury.
In discussing the unusual injury, he said it was a complication from something that happened five years ago.
He returned in a limited role against Vanderbilt and should reclaim his starting spot as the No. 18 Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) host Missouri (2-3, 0-2) this Saturday.
“It was stressful more than anything because it was something that happened my freshman year of high school. I got hit in the eye with a baseball. I had a blowout fracture and then had more complications from that a couple weeks ago,” Jordan said. “So it was just kind of stressful. It was hindering my ability to play, so I think anything that’s going to keep me off the field is going to kind of stress me out. It’s more frustrating than anything.”
Jordan reiterated he’s 100-percent clear of the issue now, and Gators coach Jim McElwain also said junior left tackle David Sharpe looks good to go with the shoulder injury that jeopardized his status last week.
That means Florida should have its full complement of linemen. As McElwain discussed last week, that gives the Gators some options with sophomore Fred Johnson able to backup at both right tackle and right guard.
The offensive line was one of the storylines heading into Florida’s postponed game with LSU last week after McElwain had been very critical of the unit follow the Gators’ lackluster win at Vanderbilt.
Junior center Cam Dillard feels the unit is progressing nonetheless.
And for what it’s worth, Dillard has been the steadiest performer from that group, routinely grading out among Florida’s top offensive players, according to Pro Football Focus. The PFF analysts actually have him ranked as the 19th highest-graded center (79.9 overall season grade) in the country as he’s allowed only 3 quarterback pressures and no sacks in 179 pass-blocking snaps.
“I think we can continue to improve. I think we can continue to grow and find our identity and things like that. But I think we’ve done a good job of keeping the quarterback clean and things like that,” Dillard said. “I think we’ve grown so far as an offensive line. Offensive line-wise I think we’ve grown and we’ve taken a lot of steps to become more mature.”
Tough challenge up front
Whoever is in for Florida up front will have a significant challenge Saturday with Missouri’s pass rush.
After a slow start in that department, the Tigers have 8 sacks and 15 tackles for loss over their last three games. They sacked Georgia 4 times and boast one of the SEC’s top defensive ends in redshirt-junior Charles Harris. He has 3.5 sacks this fall and finished with 7 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss a year ago.
With that matchup in mind, McElwain said he challenged Sharpe to match Harris’ relentless intensity this week.
“I had David do this even going into the last game too is take a look at last year when you played against him and just take a look and see how the intensity was matched. The initial block to the finish,” McElwain said. “And I think what makes those great players on defense, especially those guys like this, is their relentless effort to play through the whistle. Because even when you get them blocked sometimes they’ll make a tackle from behind because they won’t say no. They just have that no-quit attitude and that’s something we have match and take it a step above.
“It will be a good challenge for him, and (freshman right tackle Jawaan Taylor) too because he’ll be on both sides. In fact there were times in third down situations where they’ve moved the bigger guys outside and moved the faster guys inside to work on guards.”
Eddy, Eddy, Eddy
Florida special teams coordinator Greg Nord was asked recently if he’d ever coached another kicker that got his name chanted by the home crowd every time he came out to kick, like Eddy Pineiro has so far this season.
“No, and I actually coached a Lou Groza Award winner. But nobody ever chanted his name. Most of them you don’t even know their name,” Nord said.
Pineiro certainly has become a fan favorite in his first collegiate season. He’s 7-for-9 overall on field goals and 5-for-7 from 40 yards and beyond.
Both of his misses came in Week 2 against Kentucky. He’s had only three chances since then, converting each.
“Oh, he’s been fabulous. He makes covering kicks a lot easier, I know that. He had a couple misses there, I believe it was the Kentucky game that were a little uncharacteristic, but he’s been a good, steady weapon for us,” Nord said.