Still drawing the line


The Pouncey twins, Maurkice (56) and Mike (55), give the Gators size and experience on the offensive line.

Scott Wheeler/The Lakeland Ledger
Published: Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 11:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 11:38 p.m.

This is the fifth in a series breaking down the UF football team by position. Next up is a look at the defensive line on Aug. 23.

Facts

Ranking SEC offensive lines

1. Florida
2. LSU
3. Georgia
4. Tennessee
5. Alabama
6. Ole Miss
7. Arkansas
8. Auburn
9. South Carolina
10. Mississippi State
11. Vanderbilt
12. Kentucky

The upside

Even with the loss of starting tackles Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins, the Gators feel the offensive line has a chance to be a team strength again. Florida is strong in the middle, where center Maurkice Pouncey and guards Mike Pouncey and Carl Johnson return. Those three gave the Gators a great inside push a year ago that helped create openings for tailbacks Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, and quarterback Tim Tebow. Johnson also can play left tackle, and may end up at that position. But if sophomore Matt Patchan continues his strong play at left tackle, it will allow the coaches to keep Johnson inside. Marcus Gilbert has started three games and has been coming on strong at right tackle. Redshirt freshman center Sam Robey was one of the surprises of the spring, showing he’s capable of handling the position. There has been some talk of Robey starting at center, with the Pounceys playing the guard positions and Johnson moving back out to left tackle. The Gators have enough players up front now to try some different combinations.

The downside

Starting center Maurkice Pouncey is still recovering from shoulder surgery and has not practiced in preseason camp. He’s expected to be full-go for the start of the season. While Robey continues to impress in Pouncey’s absence, having your starting center out can be a bit of a problem for a group trying to create chemistry that is so important on an offensive line. And at this stage, the Gators still aren’t certain who will be the starter at one of the tackle positions. Also, some key backups (guards James Wilson and Maurice Hurt) have a history of injuries, although Wilson is having an outstanding camp so far.

Young guy to watch

When Xavier Nixon signed with Florida in February, the offensive tackle was playing high school basketball and weighed in at only about 250 pounds. He’s now around the 300-pound mark and is making quite an impression on the coaching staff with how far advanced he is in terms of mechanics and overall athletic ability. Urban Meyer recently said he is the most advanced of the five true freshmen offensive linemen, and two of them (Jonotthan Harrison and Nick Alajajian) participated in spring drills. Nixon is very long and athletic and is expected to see playing time at one of the tackle positions.

DEPTH CHART
Right guard
55-Mike Pouncey
74-Maurice Hurt
68-Jim Barrie

Right tackle
76-Marcus Gilbert
67-Xavier Nixon
78-David Young
58-Nick Alajajian
77-Jon Halapio

Center
56-Maurkice Pouncey
50-Sam Robey
79-Corey Hobbs

Left tackle
71-Matt Patchan
57-Carl Johnson
72-Jonotthan Harrison

Left guard
57-Carl Johnson
66-James Wilson
73-Byran Jones
64-Kyle Koehne

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