KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Injuries will cause the latest renewal of the Florida-Tennessee rivalry to test the depth of both teams.
The 19th-ranked Gators (3-0, 1-0 SEC) will be missing starting quarterback Luke Del Rio, who injured his left knee in a 32-0 victory over North Texas last week. Florida offensive guard Tyler Jordan will miss a second straight game as he recovers from eye surgery, and receiver Antonio Callaway is questionable after missing the North Texas game with a quadriceps injury.
No. 14 Tennessee (3-0, 0-0) definitely will be without starting cornerback Cam Sutton, linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and backup linebacker Quart’e Sapp, and the Volunteers also could be missing a few other players as they try to end an 11-game skid in this annual series .
“We know as a team, when one guy goes down, coach (Butch) Jones talks about it all the time, that you’ve got to step up to the plate,” Tennessee defensive end Corey Vereen said. “Guys who might not be playing at the beginning of the season might have a significant role later in the season.”
Florida quarterback Austin Appleby fits that profile.
Appleby, a graduate transfer from Purdue, replaced Del Rio in the North Texas game and is the likely starter at Tennessee. Appleby, who played 17 games and made 11 starts in four seasons at Purdue, has 19 career touchdown passes and 19 interceptions. He also has nine touchdown runs.
“I don’t think the game plan’s going to change at all,” Appleby said. “I mean we’re going to run the ball, we’re going to set up the play-action pass and get the ball to our guys on the outside. I think I’ve got thee element of using my feet if I need to.”
Appleby said he wasn’t aware of the fact Florida backup quarterbacks have a recent history of performing well against the Vols.
Tyler Murphy replaced an injured Jeff Driskel in 2013 with Florida trailing 7-0 and threw for one touchdown and ran for another score to spark the Gators to a 31-17 victory . Murphy had 134 yards passing and 84 yards rushing after taking over for Driskel, who broke his right leg in the first quarter.
One year later, Treon Harris replaced an ineffective Driskel with Florida behind 9-0 and helped rally the Gators to a 10-9 triumph .
“I’m excited about the opportunity to go and execute with my brothers and play at a high level,” Appleby said. “A lot is at stake.”
Tennessee has its own injury concerns.
Sutton has a fractured right ankle that will sideline him for “an extended period of time,” according to Jones. Kirkland will miss a second straight game due to a high ankle sprain. Sapp injured his anterior cruciate ligament and will sit out the rest of the season.
But there was some good news for Tennessee.
Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin is expected to return after missing most of a 28-19 victory over Ohio last week with a strained muscle in his shoulder. Offensive tackle Chance Hall, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last month and hasn’t played all season, is practicing again and might be available Saturday.
Tennessee cornerback Justin Martin and receiver Josh Smith should play Saturday after missing the Ohio game with ankle injuries. Defensive end LaTroy Lewis also sat out the Ohio game with an ankle injury, and his status for this week is uncertain.
The loss of Sutton could prove costly. Sutton, a team captain, has seven career interceptions and 41 starts. Jones said the senior cornerback continues to have a key role on this team even while sidelined.
“The first person in the training room on Sunday morning was Cam Sutton, and the last person to leave the training room was Cam Sutton,” Jones said. “He wanted all of our players to know that this week, football continues on and he’s going to support them and be with them. He was in as good a mood as you can possibly imagine. To me, that speaks volumes about Cam Sutton’s mentality, his love for this football team and his leadership.”
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Florida, contributed to this report.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org