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April 17, 2014

Spring Recap: The Offensive Line


SPRING BALL: O&B Debut: Breakdown II | O&B Debut: Breakdown I | Take 5 | Spring Practice Central

With spring camp over, Inside the Gators is taking an all-encompassing look at the Gators after 15 practices by breaking down each position. Today, we take an in-depth look at the offensive line.

OVERVIEW: For all the negativity that came out of spring practice regarding the offensive line, the Orange & Blue Debut had a couple of serious positives. For one, the snaps and center play were much-improved. Max Garcia, Florida's best lineman one year ago now playing a new position, didn't have a single folly snapping as he had often dealt with through 14 practices.

Trenton Brown, a 6-foot-8, 361-pound soft-spoken monster accustomed to playing outside took a move to right guard in stride and had arguably his best day of the spring, "mauling" - as Jeff Driskel described it - defenders in run-blocking schemes.

If Brown and Garcia continue that kind of play into the fall, the Gators could have an impressive starting five up front. D.J. Humphries and Chaz Green both had impressive spring camps working at left and right tackle, respectively. Moving to guard from a tackle spot where he was entirely overmatched proved to be a wise transition for Tyler Moore.

The concern is not the Gators' starting five; it is what happens when the inevitable occurs and the depth along the offensive line is tested. Florida's offensive line was arguably the worst in the Southeastern Conference a year ago and Will Muschamp has pointed out the Gators' depth up front is worse than it was last season. Coaches are not comfortable what they have the minute a first-team player must be substituted in favor of a second-team player.

How big of an issue that will be for a spread offense that almost never uses more than five offensive linemen remains to be seen.

THE STANDOUT: This needs to be the year D.J Humphries proves he is the elite talent at left tackle that he was recruited to be as the No. 2 overall high school prospect in the class of 2012. For the vast majority of spring, he proved to be on the right track. Humphries was the class of Florida's offensive line all spring and held his own against nearly all of the Gators' edge defenders. Dante Fowler Jr. got the best of him a couple times but that is likely to happen to every tackle in the SEC this fall. Pass protection was generally improved this spring and Humphries was to thank.

THE SURPRISE: It seemed unescapable all spring that fourth-year junior Trip Thurman would need to be shuffled out of the starting rotation at guard, but the question lingered of how to do it. Redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson's concussion did not help. Trenton Brown did. The senior slid into right guard during the final week of spring practice and looked like he was born to play the position. His pad level was appropriate and effective despite his height. His blocks in the run game were described as "The Blind Side"-like. Linebacker Jarrad Davis could only shake his head when asked what it felt like to see Brown coming at him on a pull block.

DISAPPOINTING: Yes, there have been unfortunate circumstances: Octavius Jackson having to give up football before he plays a down at UF, Ian Silberman transferring, Nolan Kelleher coming to campus with a lingering back injury, etc. But explanations don't change the fact Florida's offensive line is painfully thin in terms of capable depth. Often this spring, the second-team unit consisted of at least one walk-on, one player who moved from defense to offense during the spring and an early enrollee freshman. That's hardly a good sign at a position where injuries are prevalent and rotation can be necessary.

D.J. Humphries


The storyline is no longer size; it's now about whether or not he can live up to a standard of production. That's a good thing. Humphries had a strong spring blocking the edges but will need to hold strong against the best of the SEC.

Chaz Green


He was arguably better than Humphries during the early parts of camp but was mostly steady throughout and should be a formidable re-addition after missing 2013 with a torn labrum. The skill, size, and strength are certainly there.

Kavaris Harkless


It's probably not fair to judge a kid who should be a second-semester high school senior based off how he does playing second-team left tackle for an SEC football team. But that's exactly what was asked of Harkless this spring.

Tyler Moore


Coaches worked Moore at guard all last fall camp until an injury to Green forced him to right tackle. The position never looked like a fit, and Moore is back inside where he belongs after a successful spring.
Trenton Brown


Aside from his unique height, moving Brown inside has turned out to be a perfect fit. His slight gap in initial quickness is offset by going against less-athletic linemen and his size and strength are overpowering in the run game.
Drew Sarvary


The junior college transfer with previous FCS experience saw time at right guard most of the spring. He had a couple flashes but likely translates as little more than reserve reliable for a missed series or two by a starter.
Roderick Johnson


A concussion kept Johnson out for almost all of spring to the obvious disappointment of the coaching staff. Muschamp had hoped he would be the one to push Thurman and compete for a starting job at guard.
Nolan Kelleher


When the Gators have recently lost players because of previous injuries, it sheds an uninspiring light on a freshman who missed his first spring camp because of a back injury that lingered from high school; a nerve-racking start for a new face.
Max Garcia


The spring game was a huge reason for confidence in Garcia as a center. In his 15th practice at the position, Garcia snapped the ball well and transitioned quickly into proper blocking technique. A summer will only make him better.
Trip Thurman


By the end of spring, Thurman was no longer working at guard and had found his place as a second-team center. Whether that role sticks in the fall likely has most to do with a redshirt freshman.
Cameron Dillard


Struggles with snaps forced coaches to consider Thurman as a third option at center. Dillard is still incredibly young for a center in the SEC but will have a little more than one year to get ready for more serious playing time unless the Gators move another guard to the position.


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