GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of the clearest positives to come from Florida’s season opener Saturday night was the play of the Gators’ veteran linebackers, led by senior Jarrad Davis and redshirt-junior Alex Anzalone.
Coach Jim McElwain went so far as to say he believes those two might be as good as any tandem of linebackers in the country.
But there is a question mark at that spot this week, nonetheless.
Senior Daniel McMillian, who logged three tackles against Massachusetts while operating as Florida’s third linebacker, played through a high-ankle sprain after getting hurt in the game, and it sounds like he will be sidelined.
McElwain was vague went asked how long McMillian would need to recover, saying simply, “We’ll see. … He’s a tough guy.”
He did acknowledge, though, that redshirt-freshman Kylan Johnson and true freshman Jeremiah Moon would see more playing time as the Gators host Kentucky.
“Those guys will come in and play. That’ll be fun,” he said.
Davis, who led the Gators with nine total tackles on Saturday, said losing McMillian is “pretty big,” but he expressed his confidence in the young linebackers.
“These young guys have really done a good job stepping up throughout the summer, throughout this offseason. It’s a big loss losing D-Mac, but at the same time we’ve got lot of guys that are ready to step up. So I’m really excited to see what we’re going to do this week,” he said.
“We’ve put pressure on them to learn the defense and we’ve put pressure on them to go out there and perform, and they’ve always stood up and performed. They’ve never had anything that showed us any reason to have concern about them being in the game with us. So we’re ready for the next step.”
Both of the young linebackers got at least some playing time in the 24-7 win over Massachusetts.
Johnson, a three-star recruit from Dallas, Texas, redshirted last year while transitioning from safety to linebacker during the practices leading up to Florida’s bowl game.
Moon, whom McElwain playfully calls “Jackie Moon” as a reference to Will Ferrell’s character in “Semi-Pro,” was a 4-star recruit and the ninth-best player overall in the state of Alabama in this last recruiting class.
“He’s very athletic. He goes out and he’s a playmaker,” Davis said. “He does what he has to do. He does what coach (Randy) Shannon asks of him. He fits perfectly in our defense, and he kind of adds a different element. So I’m really excited to see him out there on the field and see what he can do under the lights.”
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
Ryan Young is a Florida beat writer for SEC Country