The last thing you want to have happen in spring practice is for a player to get injured. The Florida Gators got bad news in that department this week.
Linebacker Alex Anzalone, a 5-star linebacker in the class of 2013 who enrolled early in Gainesville, will miss the rest of spring practice after suffering a torn labrum and undergoing surgery on Monday, according to ESPN.com. Recovery time is expected to be around four months.
"It was in a tackling drill,'' head coach Will Muschamp told ESPN.com. "He just got hit on it the wrong way. Disappointed for him, but he’s going to be a really good player, so we’re going to be fine."
Anzalone is listed behind sophomore Antonio Morrison at the "Mike" linebacker spot on Florida's spring depth chart.
It's hardly an ideal situation, because linebacker is the one position outside of wide receiver where Florida can least afford injuries this spring.
Jon Bostic exhausted his eligibility and Jelani Jenkins bolted early for the NFL, leaving a rather large hole in the depth chart for Muschamp and first-year defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin.
Despite being a freshman, Anzalone was expected to compete this spring with incumbent Morrison and fellow early enrollee Daniel McMillian for a spot in the two-deep.
That won't change as a result of this injury.
The 6'3", 232-pounder has the size, speed and instincts to be able to be a contributor at "Mike" linebacker immediately. He's smart, has great instincts and takes good angles to the football.
Darrin Kitchens, Neiron Ball and Michael Taylor could all move around to compensate for Anzalone's absence. But all of those players are expected to contribute this fall no matter what. Matt Rolin, another early enrollee at linebacker, isn't participating in spring practice as he recovers from knee surgery.
Simply put, while Anzalone's injury is going to set him back, he will still benefit from enrolling early by learning the defense and preparing to join the rotation this fall.
He's good enough to earn a spot in the rotation anyway, but the fact that Florida is thin at the position means that his absence from spring won't prevent him from playing this fall.
Lead image courtesy of 247Sports.com