BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU is about to hit the toughest part of its schedule now with a handful of key players either unable to suit up or hobbled with injuries.
Turns out the dismissal of the honey badger, Tyrann Mathieu, was only one of several episodes of misfortune for the fourth-ranked Tigers.
At least four players who were projected starters back in early August won't be on the field for LSU (5-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) at No. 10 Florida (4-0, 3-0) on Saturday.
Losing Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist as a cornerback and punt returner, was a big blow on its own. But it was just the beginning.
—Linebacker Tahj Jones has not played because of academic problems.
—Left tackle Chris Faulk, arguably the top pro prospect on the offensive line, is out for the season with a knee injury that he suffered during practice before the Tigers' second game against Washington.
—Top running back Alfred Blue is sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury from LSU's third game against Idaho.
—Then last Saturday, J.C. Copeland, a 270-pound fullback with three touchdowns this season, injured his knee against Towson.
Copeland returned to practice on Wednesday and still could play. If not, that would further test LSU's depth against the Gators, who had last week off and are getting healthier.
"It is a challenge. There's no doubt about it," said offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk, who has started for Faulk at left tackle but could move to right tackle this week. "For a team to have the depth chart challenged the way that we're at, at this point in our season is certainly something that we have to hit head on."
Meanwhile, there is mostly encouraging news on the injury front for Florida, which looks to be gaining momentum with each victory.
"We were able to get some guys back that I don't know if we had played last week would have been able to play in the game," Gators coach Will Muschamp said.
Defensive end Dominique Easley (sprained left knee), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (broken right thumb) and versatile fullback Trey Burton (back spasms) all are expected to return against LSU.
Easley and Burton missed the Gators' 38-0 romp over Kentucky two weeks ago.
Jenkins sat out the last two games after breaking his thumb in the first series of a 20-17 win at Texas A&M. He'll take protective measures, such as wearing a soft cast, against LSU.