Dominique Easley out for season

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus in his right knee and will need season-ending surgery, coach Will Muschamp said in a statement Wednesday.

"As I said earlier today on the SEC conference call, Dominique injured his right knee in practice late Tuesday night in a non-contact situation," Muschamp's statement read. "... I talked to Dominique and the team this afternoon and we will continue to look for his leadership and experience throughout the season.

"Watching any of your players go through this is one of the hardest things about being a coach. Obviously, it is hardest on Dominique. We are disappointed for him, but we will be there for him every step of the way through his surgery and rehab process."

Easley indicated on his Twitter page Wednesday that he's done for the year:

"Gatornation thank you for all of 4 yrs of sticking with me but god has something else planned for and have no worries #believe."

Easley has four quarterback hurries and two tackles for loss this season for the No. 20 Gators. He tore the ACL in his left knee in 2011.

Losing him is a significant setback for a defense that leads the SEC in just about every major category, including scoring, rushing and passing.

"Dominique is a guy that has a great motor, great enthusiasm as you can see on the field," defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. "I think that's a contagious thing. I think he's been very disruptive to many teams in the backfield. He plays the game the way we want guys to play on defense. With all that being said, he's a part of a whole team of guys that I think are playing well and doing things."

Without him, the Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) likely will go with junior Leon Orr and senior Damien Jacobs at defensive tackle Saturday night at Kentucky.

Easley tore the ACL in his left knee in November 2011, but worked his way back to become a disruptive defender last season. He considered leaving school for the 2013 NFL draft, but ultimately decided to come back for one more year in hopes of improving his draft stock and maybe helping Florida get to the SEC championship game.

"He's the best defensive lineman that we have," guard Jon Halapio said before learning Easley would be lost for the year. "If we lose Easley, we still have some depth on the defensive line, good people, too. Obviously, it won't be as good as Easley, but to watch any defensive player, anyone on your team go down, it really hurts."

Easley became the fifth Florida player to be ruled out for the season.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel broke a bone in his lower right leg last week against Tennessee and had season-ending surgery Wednesday. Right tackle Chaz Green had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum suffered last month. Receiver Andre Debose tore the ACL in his left knee during fall practice. And freshman linebacker Matt Rolin is out for the season with torn knee ligaments.

Driskel was the one player the offense couldn't afford to lose, although backup Tyler Murphy played well off the bench against the Volunteers.

Easley, meanwhile, is the one player the defense can't afford to be without.

"It's definitely going to hurt," former teammate and current Jacksonville Jaguars safety Josh Evans said. "He's a veteran guy and the most spirited player on the team. He brings that passion and that energy, and not having him out there will create a big problem. It's a man-down, man-up situation, but that's the one man you just can't replace."

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.