Forward focus: Offensive line
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 11:51 p.m.
The Florida Gators experienced a considerable bump in Will Muschamp's second season, going from 7-6 in 2011 to 11-2 in 2012 with a berth in a BCS bowl game.
2013 probable depth chart
-- Trenton Brown
-- Octavius Jackson
-- Cameron Dillard
-- Roderick Johnson
-- Trevon Young
So, what happens in Year 3?
With so many players departing through a combination of graduation, transfers and leaving early for the NFL, UF is a team in transition as it moves forward into 2013.
Over the past few weeks, The Sun has broken down the Gators by position to give readers an idea of what to expect this UF team to look like in the fall. This is the final one.
Today: Offensive line.
The left side of the line must be replaced. That would be tackle Xavier Nixon and guard James Wilson. Nixon was the Gators' most seasoned offensive lineman a year ago. He finished his career with 33 starts, including five as a true freshman in 2009. He was the first true freshman to start at left tackle for the Gators since Reggie Green in 1992.
Wilson, whose career was dominated by injuries, finally enjoyed an injury-free season in 2012 and started 12 games in his sixth year of eligibility. Also gone are offensive tackle Matt Patchan, guard/center Sam Robey and guard Tommy Jordan. Patchan graduated in December and transferred to Boston College, where he will play for former UF offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. Robey graduated, while Jordan had to give up football for medical reasons. Another player who may be gone is redshirt freshman guard Jessamen Dunker. Although he is listed on the current roster, Dunker was suspended indefinitely after his January arrest for allegedly stealing a scooter on campus. His case is still being investigated by the State Attorney's Office.
The middle and right side of the line return. That would be center Jon Harrison, guard Jon Halapio and tackle Chaz Green. The three have combined to start 66 games. Harrison and Halapio started every game last season and now give the Gators experience and strength in the middle. There's a chance Green could move to left tackle, but that may depend on another key returning player — true sophomore D.J. Humphries, who started three games as a true freshman and played in every game in 2012. Humphries reported somewhat underweight a year ago, and played that way throughout last season, but he's gained weight and strength and has the look of a starting left tackle in the SEC. Humphries and Green are UF's top two tackles, regardless of which side they play on. Also returning is the versatile Kyle Koehne, who started three games in 2012. He's played guard and tackle and could even end up being the No. 2 center.
The Gators are expecting to get an immediate and considerable boost from transfers Max Garcia (Maryland) and Tyler Moore (Nebraska). Both have starting experience at major universities, and both are on campus and expected to compete for starting roles this spring. Garcia drew praise in the fall for his strong work on the scout team. He can play tackle or guard, but is expected to be a tackle, where depth is an issue. Moore, who started four games as a true freshman at Nebraska, also can play tackle and guard. He has a chance to possibly nail down a starting role at left guard. Junior college transfer Trenton Brown is expected to enter the fray at one of the tackle positions when he arrives this summer. It's difficult for true freshmen to play on the offensive line, but the depth-shy Gators have four who will try — Cameron Dillard, Octavius Jackson, Roderick Johnson and Trevon Young.
The Gators have a solid base to build on with the return of Harrison, Halapio and Green. The addition of Garcia and Young is critical. It gives the Gators two more players who have experience and are physically ready to compete in the SEC. The biggest concern is depth, especially at tackle and center.
Stronger or weaker in 2013?
With three of five starters returning, plus the addition of two key transfers who figure to play prominent roles, the Gators have a chance to be stronger up front this season. Pass protection was spotty at times on the left side, but that figures to be better in 2013 with a quicker and more athletic left tackle (Humphries). Led by Harrison, Halapio and Green on the right side, the run blocking should be consistent.