- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has lost a pair of reserve defensive linemen to knee injuries this week, and at least one is definitely out for the season.
UF coach Will Muschamp said Friday that senior defensive tackle Nick Alajajian suffered a fractured right knee and will miss the 2012 season and redshirt junior defensive end Kedric Johnson suffered a dislocated left knee and will miss a significant period of time. Both players were involved in special teams and haven't made any impact on defense, but losing those two does hurt the Gators in terms of veteran depth.
Alajajian (6-foot-4, 285 pounds) was a reserve offensive lineman for his first three seasons but was moved to defensive tackle in the spring. Johnson has just nine tackles and one sack in 25 career games.
The Gators have six experienced defensive linemen in Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd, Omar Hunter, Earl Okine and Leon Orr. UF has seven newcomers who will factor in the rotation in freshman Jonathan Bullard, Bryan Cox, Dante Fowler, Jafar Mann, Alex McCalister, Quinteze Williams and junior college transfer Damien Jacobs.
Other tidbits from Muschamp on Friday:
Muschamp said there are restrictions on where receiver Ja'Juan Story can transfer but would not elaborate. Losing the redshirt freshman means the Gators have just seven receivers on scholarship. Two are freshmen (Latroy Pittman and Raphael Andrades) and one is still recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture (Stephen Alli). That leaves Frankie Hammond, Quinton Dunbar, Solomon Patton and Andre Debose are the only receivers who caught a pass last season.
Running back Chris Johnson suffered a sprained neck earlier in the week but is scheduled to return to practice on Friday. Muschamp said the injury was not serious.
The Gators will scrimmage Saturday and it will be a game-day simulation. The coaches who will be in the press box on game day will be there Saturday. "We’ve got a collection of guys that need to go out and play on their own and not have a coach let them know where to line up, what to do, where to shift, where to motion, where your eyes need to be," Muschamp said. "We need to get off the field and let them play."
Saturday will obviously be a big day for quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett. Muschamp is looking for some specific things out those those two: Score points, move the team, and take care of the ball. "I think both guys have had their moments where they’ve really shined, and both have had their moments where we probably could be better in some areas," Muschamp said. "But very pleased with their progress and how they’ve done some things offensively." Muschamp said his timetable for naming a starting quarterback has not changed. He'll wait until the Gators have three scrimmages before deciding.
Freshman Brian Poole has been working at safety instead of cornerback. Muschamp said he made the move because of the depth at corner and he thought it would give Poole a better chance to get on the field early. “He has good instincts in zone. He’s a bright young man. He’ s a physical player. He will tackle," Muschamp said. "We felt like in the recruiting process he was a corner/nickel. He’s a guy that can go in the slot and play. But when you have a young player I think the best thing for them is to get them in one spot and let them have an opportunity. Athletically we felt like he’s ready to play, so I made a decision to move him to safety because the four corners we felt very good about. Obviously getting Jeremy Brown back in the beginning of the season, hopefully, that adds you a fifth corner that you feel good about. At this point I felt like that would put (Poole) on the field the quickest and he certainly has done a nice job of where he is."
Muschamp said the Gators have worked on kickoff returns with the new rule moving the ball from the 30 to the 35. Debose will still have plenty of opportunities to return kicks but a lot will depend on the opponents' strategy, Muschamp said. If it's a line-drive kickoff into the end zone, for example, that gives Debose a chance to bring it out. If it's a high kickoff near the sideline, that likely limits the return. "We think he can be very effective," Muschamp said. "Again, a lot goes back to how people are going to approach us."