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.