It’s only spring, so it’s way too early to get nervous or panic with the start of the season still five months away. Right?
Or is it already time to go ahead and let the anxiety settle in?
Take a look at this picture, then you decide: If the season started today, the Gators’ starting offensive line would consist of Cameron Dillard at center, Travaris Dorsey and Antonio Riles at guard and Kavaris Harkless and David Sharpe at tackle. Those five players have combined for — wait for it — zero starts at the collegiate level. That’s a big, fat 0. And, they have combined to play in a grand total of only 18 games in a backup role. The sixth and only other scholarship lineman available (Andrew Mike) also has zero starts and zero game experience. Behind these six are undersized walk-ons.
Can you feel the panic rising?
The situation on UF’s offensive line has gone from dire to desperate with the injury to starting tackle Rod Johnson, the Gators’ best and most experienced player up front.
The scary part is no one is certain at this time how serious the injury (a stinger of some sort, involving his neck, spine or shoulder, we’re assuming) is and how long Johnson will be out. It’s a similar situation for another starter up front. Guard/center Trip Thurman has missed the spring with a chronic shoulder injury. There is no timetable for the return of either player.
The best case scenario is they return at some point this summer and are fine for the start of the season. Worst case scenario is they are out for the season — and maybe even longer.
With only six healthy scholarship linemen now available, it’s really messed up the spring for the offense. How this affects Saturday’s Orange & Blue Debut at Florida Field remains to be seen, as UF has announced it will play four 12-minute quarters despite the lack of numbers on the offensive line and at linebacker.
If you think having only six scholarship offensive linemen in the spring is a big problem, imagine how bad it could be if the Gators have only 12 in the fall — and half are true freshmen just a few months removed from high school. Even if Johnson and Thurman return and bump the number up to 14, it’s still a scary situation for a team that’s desperately trying to show offensive improvement under Jim McElwain.
So, time to panic?
You make the call.