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Gators out top receivers for rivalry game at No. 16 Florida State

Xzavier Henderson, Justin Shorter, plus 3 backups ruled out
Florida Gators receiver Justin Shorter celebrates with receiver Xzavier Henderson after Shorter's 75-yard TD vs. Eastern Washington, Oct. 2, 2022
Posted at 5:43 PM, Nov 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-24 17:44:54-05

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida will be without five receivers, including Anthony Richardson's top two targets, when the Gators play at No. 16 Florida State on Friday night.

Coach Billy Napier ruled out leading receiver Xzavier Henderson and second-leading receiver Justin Shorter along with backups Ja'Quavion Fraziars, Marcus Burke and Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman on Wednesday.

Ricky Pearsall was listed as questionable, but Napier expects the Arizona State transfer to be cleared to play Thursday.

"We've been in this situation in the past,” Napier said. "There's been parts of our team every week throughout the season where we've had a handful of guys banged up.

"It's a great opportunity for those players and we've got great stories from different times of the year. ... Next guy up and certainly excited to watch some of these guys play."

Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier vs. Eastern Washington Eagles, Oct. 2, 2022
Florida head coach Billy Napier calls out instructions from the sideline during the second half against Eastern Washington, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla.

Caleb Douglas, Pearsall and Daejon Reynolds were listed as projected starters on Florida's weekly depth chart. Reynolds made the most of an increased role last week at Vanderbilt, finishing with eight catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Reynolds has 11 catches for 244 yards on the season. Douglas has eight receptions for 150 yards and two scores. Pearsall has caught 24 passes for 448 yards and three TDs. But there's little, if any, depth behind them.

"There's no question they're very capable," Napier said. "The way we practice, all the players on our team get multiple opportunities throughout the OTAs in the summer, training camp, you know it helps you build depth on your team so you can survive some of these situations."

Henderson and Shorter have been Florida's big-play receivers all year. Henderson has 38 catches for 410 yards and two TDs. Shorter has 29 receptions for 577 yards and two scores.

Florida does not disclose the exact nature of injuries, only saying upper or lower body. Henderson and Shorter both have lower-body injuries. Pearsall, Fraziars, Burke and Chiaokhiao-Bowman have upper-body issues.