CJ Henderson, Kadarius Toney to miss limited time with injuries
The worry among some who saw Kadarius Toney and then CJ Henderson leave Florida’s Saturday night win over Tennessee-Martin was that Toney had broken an arm and that Henderson had wrenched his knee significantly enough to tear a ligament, and that fear only intensified after Dan Mullen gave scant details about their status on Saturday night.
Fortunately, that fear was also unfounded, as Mullen revealed during his weekly Monday press conference that Henderson was merely “doubtful” for this Saturday’s game against Kentucky with an ankle injury, and that Toney would miss “a couple weeks” with an upper body injury (likely to his shoulder).
And, frankly, Florida resting Henderson this weekend — something Mullen also indicated he would do if Henderson is not fully healthy — is probably the right call, even if Florida wants to take its shine back from the Wildcats after they broke the Gators’ decades-long winning streak in 2018 in Gainesville. Henderson is a projected early-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and it makes no sense for him — or a team charged with helping him get to that professional level — to risk his health on a game like this. If Florida were playing for a national title or an SEC crown rather than its first SEC win of the year, perhaps Henderson’s threshold for playability would be different — but that’s not what’s at stake this weekend.
Henderson is also the harder of the two players to replace or mimic, with no other corner possessing quite his blend of experience and speed, and though I’d expect starting nickel corner Trey Dean to play some outside opposite Marco Wilson like he did opposite Henderson in 2018 with Wilson hurt, I would also imagine that Florida might cycle through freshman corners Kaiir Elam, Jaydon Hill, and Chester Kimbrough both in practice this week and on the field this Saturday to replace Henderson. Florida’s depth chart for this week lists Henderson, Hill, and Kimbrough in a three-way OR situation at that cornerback spot, for what it’s worth.
Toney’s touches, meanwhile, should probably just be allocated to rising playmaker Jacob Copeland — to see if he can play that role, if nothing else — or reappropriated to the Florida passing game. Though losing Toney’s versatility limits Florida’s offense some, there are far too many good skill-position players on that offense for losing any one to be crippling.
Florida opens with Alabama, finishes with Kentucky in men’s basketball in 2019-20
The SEC released its men’s basketball schedule for 2019-20 on Tuesday, revealing through its return of the Florida-Kentucky games to their frequent mid-February and final game of the year placements that the league pretty clearly views the Gators and Wildcats as the class of the conference again. Florida’s early stretch is also clearly the softer side, despite its opening fortnight featuring two road games at the conference’s Columbia-based teams — you can figure that one out — and a home date with 2019 Final Four participant Auburn in January. The Gators’ last five games — at Kentucky, LSU, at Tennessee, at Georgia, Kentucky — are going to do a whole lot to determine the ultimate trajectory of a season that might be pointed toward national title contention.
Chris Harry’s breakdown goes into far more detail than I will here — I might write a comparable piece next week or so — but I think this schedule is pretty fair even if the back-to-back road games are somewhat weird combinations (the two mentioned above, yes, but also trips to Ole Miss and Texas A&M) and the home Saturday slate is a little lacking. In any case, though, the release of more info about this season is a reminder that it is creeping up — and for me, that’s exciting, as I think this team has a chance to be both very good and really, really fun.
Florida-Tennessee set for noon kickoff
Florida’s September 21 game against Tennessee — 0-2 for the first time in more than a generation — was always probably going to be a nooner. CBS snagging the rights to Notre Dame’s trip to Georgia that night and staging a doubleheader with Auburn’s trip to Texas A&M meant that the conference would have just one night slot apart from the marquee CBS game (which generally has the deck cleared opposite it, whether it’s on at 3:30 p.m. Eastern or in primetime), and that ESPN would be plucking top games for a noon-hour kickoff.
But Florida-Tennessee being formally announced as a noon game in the midst of a post-hurricane heat wave in Florida was not fun news to learn of on Monday, and while no Florida folks have been vocally critical of the SEC like Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne and school president Stuart Bell were, this game is going to be an arduous one to attend.
There’s plenty of magical thinking going around about noon games in the SEC right now — Anchor of Gold crunched the numbers to show Alabama’s whining for what it is, while LSU fans, who are never paranoid about anything because someone is always out to get LSU, see this grousing as a means of going after LSU’s (absurd) advantage in night games — but I think the core point, true across the league, is that no fan base is eager to turn out for noon games. And I think that’s especially true in September because of the summer heat — there isn’t a city in the SEC where there won’t be a high of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter at some point this week — so there’s no easy solution of staggering noon games in cooler cities at the beginning of the year and noon games in hotter climes in November.
This problem is only going to get more acute as fewer and fewer fans choose attending their team’s own game over digesting the college football schedule as a whole each week, and as the Earth continues to heat up. And if it’s a problem at Alabama, it’s certainly a problem everywhere.
But what can fans do except suck it up and guzzle water, really? We are subject to the whims of massive TV networks and the nine-figure revenue generators that happen to field the teams we like as is; only truly boycotting games en masse is going to make a change here, and that’s not something I foresee happening any time soon.