Craig Stephens

Easley's Injury Ends Florida's Season

Created on Sept. 25, 2013 7:13 PM EST

Well, it's been fun.

Dominique Easley hurt his knee in practice. On a conference call Tuesday, Muschamp said Easley tweaked it, but Easley's tweet made the situation sound more serious: "Gatornation thank you for all of 4 yrs of sticking with me but god has something else planned for and have no worries #believe."

Recent reports leaked out that Easley tore his MCL and will miss the remainder of the season.

It's been a good run, guys. Time to warm up the buses and go home.

A few days after losing starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, the Gators lose their star defensive tackle and best overall player.

Sometimes football isn't fair. Easley's injury in practice proves it's just not the Gators' year. Injuries are part of football, but severe practice injuries are unusual, and losing two of the most important starters in one week is both unlikely and brutal.

Enough lamenting bad luck. Easley's injury has serious football implications as well. Easley was the best player on the defense, the best player on the team, and opponents respected that. Easley commanded double and triple teams on a regular basis. Leaving Easey 1-on-1 meant a tackle for loss, so teams game-planned to make sure that did not happen. Even with two or three guys blocking him, Easley was able to penetrate the line, pressure the quarterback or disrupt running plays with consistency. Unlike the other SEC standout lineman, Jadeveon Clowney, there were never questions about Easley's motor or effort. Easley went full speed every play.

Losing Easley will sap the effectiveness from the rest of the defensive line. Dante Fowler will not be able to run free and cause fumbles and Ronald Powell will no longer have one man between him and the quarterback. Without Easley eating up blockers, the rest of the line will not be as explosive. Will Muschamp will burn a redshirt and replace Easley with a freshman who will be capable, but raw.

Florida's defense still is talented, and still deep, but it takes a special giftedness and years of development to become Dominique Easley, and none of these replacements will be on his level. I expect Florida to manufacture enough pressure so the secondary will be mildly affected. Loucheiz Purifoy will smother receivers for as long as necessary. The line just needs to reach the quarterback before coverage breaks down on the other side.

Missing Easley will hurt Florida much more than the loss of Driskel. After Driskel's injury, I thought the Gators had fallen behind Georgia and South Carolina in the SEC East. This injury cements those standings. I expected Florida to surprise football fans and win one or two games against Georgia, South Carolina, LSU, and FSU based on the grit of the defense, but Easley's injury cripples that theory. We won't know the true impact of Easley's injury until we see Florida face off against one of those quality teams. If the defense looks like jelly, Florida's only hope for an upset will be divine intervention.

Easley's injury is devastating and practically means the end of the Gators' season. If the remaining Gators play to their potential, Florida will stay out of the SEC cellar. They are still a step ahead of Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Missouri, but this injury solidifies Florida as the third team in the East.

I guess it's time to look for Outback Bowl tickets. 

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