GAINESVILLE, Fla. — No. 19 Florida will be without quarterback Luke Del Rio as it begins a stretch of seven consecutive Southeastern Conference games.

Coach Jim McElwain officially ruled Del Rio out Monday because of a knee injury, saying he won’t play at No. 14 Tennessee (3-0) on Saturday and could miss more time. McElwain declined to provide specifics about Del Rio’s injury.

“Yeah, he’s got a bum leg and he should be back sometime,” McElwain said. “I don’t know when it’s going to be. I mean, I’m not going to rush him back. You know me: I’ll never put anybody out there that’s not ready to go. So we’ll see. And yet, you know what, we’ve got other guys that will jump in there and play. I’m excited about it.

“Now I feel horrible for him, especially how it happened, and yet that’s part of the game as well. That’s just the way it goes.”

Del Rio injured his left knee Saturday on a low hit by North Texas defensive end Josh Wheeler, who was flagged for a personal foul. McElwain, who clearly thought the play was dirty, screamed at the Mean Green sideline and had to be restrained by officials and then his players.

Del Rio ended up walking off the field without assistance, and his injury isn’t season-ending.

“I don’t look at it as good news at all, because it’s still, you know, wasn’t right,” McElwain said. “But as good a news as it is, you know, he didn’t have to go under the knife yet, so that, to me, is a positive.”

The injury forces the Gators (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) to turn to former fifth-year senior Austin Appleby, who started 11 games the last two years at Purdue. Appleby threw for 2,777 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in 17 games with the Boilermakers. He also ran for nine scores.

With Appleby under center and leading receiver Antonio Callaway uncertain to play because of a quadriceps injury, McElwain decided to close practice to the media this week. It’s the first time he’s done that in two years at Florida.

“I think it’s important to give you guys a bye and rest you up a little bit to go on a road trip,” McElwain told reporters. “We’re going to go ahead and close our practices, not that I don’t trust anybody in here. I trust each and every one of you, all right? … I’d just appreciate that we kept to the Gators and go on from there. Nothing drastic, but obviously we have some new things we have to work on.”


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