Three starters will miss Florida's August 31 game against Toledo, Will Muschamp announced Friday: Matt Jones, still recovering from a viral infection, Jon Halapio, recovering from a back injury, and Antonio Morrison, whose suspension for a pair of summer arrests is still in place, will all be out of action for the Gators when they meet the Rockets.
#Gators coach Will Muschamp says Matt Jones will have more bloodwork done Monday. He is ruled out for Toledo.— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) August 23, 2013
#Gators coach Will Muschamp said guard Jon Halapio is projected to be back for the Tennessee game.— Adam Lichtenstein (@ALichtenstein24) August 23, 2013
Muschamp: No update on Antonio Morrison's 2-game suspension.— Chris Harry (@GatorZoneChris) August 23, 2013
None of the absences is really all that surprising. Jones's slow recovery from a viral infection described by his high school coach as "fast and vicious" has kept him out of practice, as has Halapio's back injury. Morrison's two-game suspension, announced after his arrest for barking at a police dog but before that charge was dropped, has been a topic of interest for Florida fans who want it lifted, but Muschamp has made no indication that it will be changed or commuted.
With Jones out, Florida is likely to lean on projected starter Mack Brown at running back, could call more designed runs for Jeff Driskel, and might get converted defensive back Valdez Showers and walk-on Mark Herndon more touches against Toledo. Halapio is the easiest of the three players to spell, as experienced and talented Nebraska transfer Tyler Moore is likely to start at right guard against the Rockets. And junior Neiron Ball should be Florida's starter at middle linebacker.
Without those three players, Florida's going to have a harder time fending off Toledo, a team that is significantly better than the Gators' usual season-opening opponent. But Florida hasn't lost its season opener since 1989, when it fell to Mississippi, hasn't lost a season opener to a non-SEC team since a 31-4 loss to Miami in 1987, and last lost a season-opening non-conference home game in 1922, when Furman delivered a 7-6 defeat.