COLUMBIA, S.C. — Florida quarterback Malik Zaire had just given the Gators their best offensive play of the game on a 23-yard designed run when he sustained an injury that prompted the training staff to tend to him on the field.
After missing just one play, Zaire returned to the field, took the snap and began rolling to his left when he crumbled to the ground untouched.
There has been no official update on the nature of the injury or his status, but with the pain he looked to be in it would seem unlikely he attempts another return today.
Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks took over and would be Florida’s only healthy scholarship quarterback if Zaire is indeed out for the game. Walk-on redshirt freshman Nick Sproles is the only other QB who made the trip for the Gators.
Zaire remains on the sideline with a brace on his left knee. Meanwhile, center T.J. McCoy left with an injury on the next series and was replaced by junior Tyler Jordan at center.
Franks, who started the first six games of the season, went 0-for-2 on that first drive while trading snaps with Zaire.
He came into the day with 928 passing yards, 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He averaged just 91 passing yards per game while starting the first three games of Florida’s current losing streak.
Zaire took over as the starter last week, giving way to Franks for the final two series of the 45-16 loss. Franks completed 7 of 10 passes for 98 yards and Florida’s only touchdown while finishing strong with the game already in hand.
Zaire, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame who waited more than half the season to get an extended opportunity, had passed for 158 yards last week and was 7 of 14 for 49 yards Saturday.
It’s unlikely Florida will provide any in-game update on his injury.
If McCoy can’t return, that’s another blow to a Florida offensive line that lost starting left guard Brett Heggie to a season-ending knee injury last week.
The Gators have had a tough run of luck on the injury front all season, losing QB Luke Del Rio to a season-ending collarbone injury in his first start, breakout freshman running back Malik Davis to a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago and Heggie the following week while receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Kadarius Toney have been banged up and limited. On defense, ends Jordan Sherit (season-ending shoulder injury) and Jachai Polite (shoulder), linebacker Kylan Johnson (hamstring) and safeties Nick Washington (shoulder) and Marcell Harris (season-ending Achilles tendon injury) are among the notable losses.
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