Gators Notebook: Linebacker Shortage, Ex-Players Show Up, more tidbits

Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis is in Tampa for the Outback Bowl but won’t be able to play on Monday. (Photo: Steve Jacobson/Outback Bowl) TAMPA, Fla. – Gators head coach met with reporters on Friday for the final time before the Outback Bowl against Iowa.

Unfortunately for Florida, McElwain delivered familiar news on starting linebackers and : neither will play in Monday’s game.

Davis missed three consecutive games due to a severely sprained ankle before starting in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama. However, Davis could barely walk after the game and is still not 100 percent.

Meanwhile, Anzalone has practiced here this week after missing the last four games because of a broken arm suffered at Arkansas on Nov. 5. Like Davis, Anzalone is not completely healed and isn’t ready to play against a physical Iowa offensive front.

"To his credit, he tested it,” McElwain said of Anzalone. "That’s great to see."

Both players are potential high-round draft picks in next spring’s NFL draft. A senior, Davis is projected by some analysts as a late first-round pick. A fourth-year junior, Anzalone has another year of eligibility remaining. If he opts to return, he will be the Gators’ most experienced linebacker next season. If not, Anzalone is projected to be drafted in the middle rounds and perhaps as high as the second round. Gators interim defensive coordinator Randy Shannon will be without two of the unit’s most valuable players on Monday. (Photo: Will Pantages/UAA Communications) Despite missing significant time, Davis (60 tackles) and Anzalone (59) rank second and third on the team in tackles behind safety , who has 64.

Florida is extremely slim at linebacker entering the game against Iowa, which features a strong rushing attack led by LaShun Daniels Jr. (1,013 yards) and Akrum Wadley (966 yards). Besides Davis and Anzalone, freshman linebacker Davis Reese (wrist surgery) is out.

McElwain said freshmen and will start and that walk-on will get additional reps. Senior is also a factor and is the most experienced of the players available.

In addition to three linebackers, starting safety (ankle) and defensive end Jr. (ankle) are "highly questionable" according to McElwain. If they can’t play, that means the Gators will be without five of their top six tacklers.

"It’s going to really test the safeties to when we get down in the box, to be able to stand up to that run game and get the guys to the ground,” McElwain said. "Obviously, where we’re going to be a little short on bodies is not a place against this kind of team is where you want to be.

"But that’s our responsibility to put a plan together to put them on the ground. Our guys are going to have to be really disciplined on the back-end with their eyes on not get beat in play-action."

McElwain did have some good news: starting nickel is healthy and ready to play after being hobbled late in the season because of injuries.

***** SPECIAL GUESTS The sideline at Jesuit High School was full of Gators at Friday afternoon’s practice […]