Return of DJ Humphries gives Gators offensive line big lift
The Florida Gators haven’t had the best luck with injuries in the past couple season. Last year, Florida was bit hard by the injury bug, losing 17 scholarship players to season-ending injuries.
This season didn’t get off to a much better start, either. Tight end Jake McGee broke his leg in multiple places, effectively ending his season practically before it began and starting left tack DJ Humphries suffered a high ankle sprain.
Well, the Gators received good news earlier this week that Humphries would finally return from his injury after missing games against Kentucky and Alabama. Starting center Max Garcia was thrilled to hear Humphries would be on the line of scrimmage with him Saturday afternoon against Tennessee.
“I love having DJ on the field. Just having his energy really lifts us all up,” Garcia said. “You could tell when he was out, during practice we just didn’t have that fire. So I’m just really excited to have him back.”
This wasn’t the first time Humphries had missed multiple games due to injury. Last season, a knee injury made Humphries one of those 17 players to suffer a season-ending injury. Prior to the injury, Humphries started six games last season and played in all 12 games as a freshman. Returning in time for the Tennessee game is something Humphries is very happy about, especially since he has some pretty good memories from the Gators’ last visit to Neyland Stadium in 2012.
“That was one of my first road games,” Humphries said about the Gators’ road win against the Vols in 2012. “A lot of the fans knew me by name. I got a lot of heckling for that. It was fun. I loved it.”
Despite missing two games and jumping right back into the action during SEC play, Garcia doesn’t anticipate much of a drop off in Humphries play, even though it’s been nearly a month since he played at game speed.
“It’s going to take him just a little bit for him to get back to where he was as far as playing to the speed of the game from being out,” Garcia said about arguably the Gators’ most talented offensive lineman. “But I’m sure he’s going to do a good job on Saturday.”
In Humphries absence, redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson stepped in at right tackle, while senior Chaz Green slid over to the left tackle position.
Despite it just being his first season of collegiate action, the Delray Beach, Fla. native, Johnson rose to the challenge against some especially challenging Kentucky and Alabama defensive front sevens.
“He wasn’t scared,” Garcia said. “He wasn’t timid. It was his first away game and he did a good job. And he held his own. That’s all you can ask for in a guy that doesn’t have much experience. He went out there and handled what he was supposed to do. I’m just really proud of him and he’s going to be a really good player.”
With Humphries returning against Tennessee, head coach Will Muschamp said the junior offensive tackle will assume his role of starting left tackle and Green will likely be the starting left tackle, while Johnson will be the primary backup at both positions.