Injuries Stress Gator Line

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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 12/31/2011 3:44 PM

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Football
Injuries Put Gators Offensive Line In Flux
By Brandon Castel

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — If John Simon was not excited for Monday’s Gator Bowl—which seems unlikely because he is John Simon—he should be now.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced Saturday that starting offensive tackle Matt Patchan would miss the bowl game with an upper back (latissimus dorsi) injury suffered during practice this past week.

“We’ve had a physical bowl practice and preparation with what we’re trying to do to improve our football team and get ready for a game against a good football team,” Muschamp said during his press conference.

“So we had an unfortunate injury.”

Patchan, a 6-6, 292-pound junior from Tampa, Fla., was expected to line up at right tackle, where he started the final five games of the regular season. Instead, the Gators will use a combination of Xavier Nixon, a 6-6 junior out of North Carolina, or reserve Nick Alajajian, a 6-4 sophomore out of Naples.

Neither has started a game at right tackle this season, but Nixon has 22 starts under his belt at left tackle. In 2009, the former 4-star prospect from Fayetteville, N.C. became the first true freshman to start at left tackle for the Gators since Reggie Green back in 1992.

He was Florida’s starting left tackle for the first nine games of this season, but was eventually benched after struggling mightily early in the year. Muschamp tried Patchan at left tackle for two games, but decided to put him on the right side and move freshman Chaz Green over to the left side before the Georgia game in week eight.

Patchan was a 5-star prospect out of high school and the No. 5 offensive tackle in the country in Rivals.com’s class of 2008. He has dealt with numerous injuries during his four years in Gainesville, including a gunshot wound, a torn pectoral muscle, a knee injury that resulted from an on-campus scooter accident and a broken right wrist.

The Gators also could be without senior left guard Dan Wenger, who transferred to Florida from Notre Dame—where he played under former UF offensive coordinator Charlie Weis—during the summer of 2011.

A 4-star prospect in the class of 2006, Wenger has started 10 games at left guard and one at center for the Gators this season, but has missed practice this week with an ankle injury.

Muschamp says he is questionable for the game on Monday. The Gators would likely use redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne in his absence. The 6-5, 302-pound lineman from Indianapolis started one game at left guard for the Gators this season. It came in week 11 against Furman. He was a 3-star prospect in the class of 2009.

On defense, end Kedric Johnson and SAM linebacker Lerentee McCray are both game-time decisions for Florida. Johnson is a backup to sophomore Ronald Powell while McCrary is a starter who recorded 24 tackles in nine games the season.

The Gators are already without starting nose tackle Dominique Easley, who suffered to a season-ending knee injury at the end of the year.

The Associated Press was used in this report.

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