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No. 4 LSU's depth faces big test at No. 10 Florida

No. 4 LSU's depth faces big test at No. 10 Florida

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.

``Certainly, his experience, maturity, play-making ability, being able to make some defensive calls and calm some guys down in situations in a game like this,'' Muschamp said of Jenkins. ``There is no question it will be an added boost.''

The knee Easley hurt is the same one in which he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last November against Florida State, so whether he bounces back quickly remains to be seen.

Florida also was happy to have an extra week to rest leading running back Mike Gillislee, who is averaging 100 yards a game but has been slowed by a groin injury, gaining only 56 yards at Kentucky. His practice snaps were reduced during the bye week to get him back to full speed.

``We've got to do what we've got to do,'' offensive coordinator Brent Pease said in reference to Gillislee's workload. ``If he needs to carry it 30 times this time, he'll carry it 30. ... Mike can handle that.''

LSU has built up quality depth. Since taking over in 2005, Les Miles helped LSU to continue to be an annual contender for a national title.

Without Blue, some of LSU's other talented running backs will get an opportunity. Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford have all had spectacular moments during their careers and freshman Jeremy Hill is showing promise. Hilliard and Ware are also big and tough enough to fill in at fullback.

Dworaczyk is a sixth-year senior and a former starter at guard. He said he feels comfortable moving to either tackle spot, and added that many LSU players are adept at multiple positions, giving the coaching staff a lot of flexibility.

Mathieu's departure in August forced LSU to start freshman Jalen Mills at cornerback, with Mills moving to nickel back and redshirt freshman Jalen Collins coming in at cornerback in passing situations. Mills has a pair of interceptions and Collins has broken up a pair of passes that wound up being intercepted by a teammate on the deflection.

``We don't recruit these guys for no reason. They're great football players,'' said receiver Russell Shepard, who works against Mills and Collins in practice. ``Those guys are ready because the coaches do a great job preparing them and our leaders on the team do a great job of showing them how we play our style of football.''

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AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to this report.

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Manny Machado trade rumors are dominating headlines at All-Star Game

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Manny Machado trade rumors are dominating headlines at All-Star Game

Manny Machado could very well be playing in his final game in an Orioles uniform Tuesday night when he takes the field for the 89th Midsummer Classic at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. 

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Dodgers are now in the driver's seat as a favorite to land the All-Star shortstop. 

Machado, 26, insists he knows nothing about said speculation and made it clear that the rumors did not detract from his enjoyment of being an All-Star Tuesday night.

Machado is signed through the end of the season, but the Orioles intend to deal him before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

For the latest news and conversation surrounding Machado's status and the Orioles, follow along on Twitter

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All-Star Game Weather: Storms causing traffic havoc, could force delay, postponement

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All-Star Game Weather: Storms causing traffic havoc, could force delay, postponement

There is inclement weather in the forecast for Tuesday evening both before and during the 2018 All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.

The rain could, theoretically, force the game to be delayed or even postponed, but the forecast shows the skies clearing up as first pitch nears.

Bad weather and MLB All-Star Games share a history in Washington.

The last time Washington hosted the MLB All-Star Game, in 1969, a bad rainstorm forced the game to be postponed from Tuesday night to Wednesday afternoon.

Even if the weather does let up and the game is able to start on time, there are sure to be problems with D.C.'s already-dense traffic. Roads are flooding and with more people on them than usual, getting to the game will surely be an issue.

All-Star Game Forecast

The worst of the weather seems to have already happened on Tuesday afternoon. The rest of the evening forecast calls for a slight chance of precipitation, with mostly cloudy skies and, naturally, a lot of humidity.

The issue, if there is any, would likely be with the All-Star Game getting started on time. That said, there's obviously still the chance for delays during the game.

Luckily, a full postponement seems unlikely at this point.

All-Star Game Traffic

There's hardly a worse place to drive in the United States during rush hour than in, around or through Washington. With the All-Star Game in town, there are already significantly more cars on the road than there usually are. Add rain and flooded roads into that equation and things get extra messy.

The George Washington Parkway, a main thoroughfare in the area, has already flooded.

One road in Alexandria, Virginia, is flooded and has cars scattered about.

Public transportation would seem to be the way to go, but even the Capitol South Metro Station in Southeast D.C. is flooding.


A brief history of weather and the All-Star Game

The first and only time the MLB All-Star Game was ever postponed because of rain was in 1969, the last time Washington was the host.

Three other times, the game has either been shortened or delayed because of rain, most recently in 1990 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. That game was delayed for over an hour but was still played.

All signs point to the game being played Tuesday night, but Nationals Park has definitely felt the wrath of this storm already.

On the bright side, if it's light enough when the game starts, there will probably be a rainbow somewhere in-view from the stadium, which should make for some pretty cool pictures for those in attendance.