GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida is missing all the optimism that usually comes with the start of fall practice.
The Gators will open workouts Friday without four offensive starters — including quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Matt Jones — and have no timetable for reinstating suspended linebacker Antonio Morrison.
Guards Jon Halapio (pectoral) and Max Garcia (back) won't be on the field, either.
"Things like this are going to happen during the season, and it's good that we're hitting adversity right now in the beginning of training camp so we can be ready for situations like this," Halapio said Thursday during the team's annual media day.
Driskel had an appendectomy Tuesday, but coach Will Muschamp said he should be back within two weeks. The second-year starter had a stomach ache Sunday, thought little about it, but started getting concerned when it returned Monday. His roommate suggested getting it checked out, so Driskel did some research and then approached team doctors.
"We're lucky we found it early and handled that before it got bad," Driskel said. "It could have been a lot worse."
Driskel has been "taking it easy" and doesn't plan to do much until he's medically cleared.
"It's definitely frustrating," he said. "But injuries happen. It's part of life. I'm starting to feel better already. ... Recovery time, they said it varies for everybody. We're not going to rush anything. But I don't think I'm going to miss too much. I'll be there getting the mental reps. I'll be right there behind the huddle. We've done a lot of work in the summer, so when I get back, I'm hoping we don't miss too much."
Fourth-year junior Tyler Murphy, who hasn't thrown a pass in three games, will get repetitions with the first-team offense during Driskel's absence.
"I've been waiting for this opportunity since I got here," Murphy said. "Nobody wants to get an opportunity like this. Of course, I would rather me and Jeff both be out there lining up and I would rather beat him out that way. ... My goal is to take advantage of the reps I get, and hopefully when Jeff gets back, I can stir up some problems in the coaches' office, where they may consider me."
Murphy won't have Jones in the backfield with him.
Jones, who ran 19 times for 162 yards in the final three games last season and had been expected to be an integral part of the offense, complained of side pain earlier in the week. Tests revealed an undisclosed viral infection that has him sidelined indefinitely. Teammates said the 226-pound back has lost considerable weight.
Muschamp was hoping Jones "ate a bad cheeseburger." Tests, though, revealed an infection.
"Matt Jones has a serious viral infection," Muschamp said. "He's out indefinitely. He came down with this the last four or five days. Right now we're filling him full of antibiotics, and how his body responds will tell me how quickly he can come back. I probably won't know definitively until end of next week on Matt. Just one of those things that happens. He's got a lot of (gastrointestinal) issues right now and dealing with those things. He should be fine. Again, I don't know when he'll be able to return."
Without Jones, Mack Brown and freshman Kelvin Taylor will share the load.
"I have confidence in Mack Brown and I think we've recruited well at that position," Muschamp said. "And those guys can step up. We're a little uncertain in Matt's situation. I just don't know right now. But we also have some flexibility. Hunter Joyer and Trey Burton are two guys that can certainly play the position and be fine."
Regardless of who's running the ball, the line will be a patchwork unit to start.
Halapio has a partially torn pectoral muscle, which he injured lifting weights last week. Garcia, who sat out last season after transferring from Maryland, has not been cleared from a lingering back injury. Garcia is scheduled to meet with a doctor next weekend.
Morrison, meanwhile, remains suspended following his second arrest of the summer.
"I'll let you know when he joins our football team," Muschamp said, later adding that the middle linebacker will return at some point during the preseason.
Morrison was arrested in June for allegedly punching a bouncer and was arrested again last month for allegedly barking at a police canine. The most recent charges, which also included resisting arrest, were dropped.
"There was a lot of punishment that's gone on this summer with him," Muschamp said. "It's not all about game time, either. At the end of the day, our guys understand if they make mistakes, there are going to be consequences and part of that is game time. If that was the case, we wouldn't have any issues anymore, you know?"