Florida improves with offensive line depth
Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 1:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 1:42 p.m.
Just like a year ago, when Florida did not have enough healthy offensive linemen to hold a spring game, the Gators are fairly low in numbers on the offensive front.
But they do have enough linemen to have a spring game, as long as injuries don’t hit between now and April 12. And despite the fact they have only 10 scholarship linemen competing this spring, the Gators have managed to improve their depth up front, thanks to the ability of players to play more than one position.
“We feel really good with seven or eight bodies right now,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “You look at the combination of guys we feel pretty good about. We’ve got some guys that are interchangeable to get the best guys on the field.”
This is a line that may not have a lot of bodies, but it’s rich in versatility:
*Senior Max Garcia, the new starting center, played guard and tackle last season, so he’s capable of playing all five positions on the line.
*Senior Chaz Green, who missed the 2013 season with a torn labrum, is back at the starting right tackle position, but he’s also capable of playing left tackle.
*Junior Tyler Moore started at right tackle last season and now is slated to start at guard. So, he’s shown he can play inside and out and will provide depth at tackle.
*Senior Trenton Brown started the last five games in 2013 at right tackle and now is training at both tackle and guard.
*Junior Trip Thurman and redshirt freshman Cameron Dillard, a standout on the scout team last fall, are both working at guard and center and will provide depth at both positions. Thurman is a likely starter at one of the guard positions.
*Redshirt freshman Rod Johnson played tackle in high school, but is working mostly at guard this season. He’s capable of playing tackle if he’s needed there.
*The coaching staff feels good about junior college transfer Drew Sarvary and true freshman Kavaris Harkless. Sarvary could play guard or tackle, while Harkless is working at the left tackle position.
Florida’s numbers may still be somewhat low on the offensive line, but the Gators seem to have plenty of options (as long as everyone stays healthy).
“You look at the tackle position. D.J. Humphries, Chaz Green and Trenton Brown are three guys we feel comfortable with,” Muschamp said. “Chaz Green at right tackle and could flip and switch to left if needed, with Trenton staying at right tackle to get him at one spot.
“At center, Max has done a nice job making the calls up front. We’ve got to be a little more consistent with snapping the ball, which will come. That’s part of the transition there and we knew it was going to happen. Trip Thurman can play center, Cam Dillard has done some nice things.
“Rod Johnson is a guy we’ve played inside at guard and could play right or left. Tyler Moore has done a nice job at the guard position and Trip Thurman can play guard and center. We’ve got some guys that are interchangeable.”
Muschamp said the line is making progress this spring in Kurt Roper’s new uptempo offense.
“We’ve thrown a lot at them up front as far as front-wise and recognizing those schemes,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp said the coaching staff feels comfortable with eight linemen. They also feel good about the potential of the other two — Sarvary and Harkless.
“Drew Sarvary has done some nice things and then Kavaris Harkless is a high school senior lining up at left tackle against Dante (Fowler), which can be a tough deal,” Muschamp said. “He’s a good football player. He needs to keep working.”
Some depth at DT
Despite the fact starting defensive tackle Leon Orr is out for the spring recovering from wrist surgery, Muschamp said he feels good about his numbers at DT heading into 2014.
“(Orr) and Darious (Cummings) are two experienced players that have played well for us,” Muschamp said. “Caleb Brantley has got all the tools. He's got to do it every day. Got to do it every snap and understand the battle … of pushing through tough fatigue and things.
“Jay-nard Bostwick has done some nice things for us as an inside player. Antonio Riles has done some nice things. So I feel like the depth is there. We've got some good players.”
Two other players — Jonathan Bullard and Joey Ivie — are getting reps at both defensive end and tackle.
“By cross-training some guys up front, it provides depth,” Muschamp said.
Christy rebounds strong
Kyle Christy appears to have bounced back big after going into a slump last season and losing his starting role at punter to true freshman Johnny Townsend.
Christy and Townsend are locked in a tight battle this spring for the starting role.
“Both Kyle and Johnny are punting extremely well, battling it out for the starting job,” Muschamp said. “I think (Christy) is hitting the ball extremely well. We're charting every kick, and there's no question his confidence took a hit and he's battling for the starting job. We've got two guys that have Sunday legs. They both kick very well."
Muschamp is not feeling as good about the situation at place-kicker, where the Gators had so many problems last season.
“The kicking situation is still not what it needs to be,” Muschamp said. “But Austin (Hardin) is hitting the ball more consistently the same way. I think one of the issues that we had in fall camp that we identified in the season was consistently hitting the ball well the same way. That's kind of like a golf swing, you've got to have the same swing every time, and you need to hit it well every time.
“If you have the same swing, you have a better chance to hit the ball well every time. That's where he was very inconsistent in his swing at times in the fall. That's something we addressed in the fall, obviously didn't do a very good job of getting it corrected, but we worked hard in the offseason with that."
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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