NEW ORLEANS — The excitement in Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s voice was palpable.
The Florida Gators are here to play Louisville in the Sugar Bowl at 8:30 ET on Wednesday, but Pease was asked about how next season’s offensive line is stacking up.
Pease smiled and his words intensified as he clearly sees a team that’s going to be loaded with big bodies up front in 2013.
“I think it’s going to look really good,” Pease said. “We’ve got some kids coming in. We’ve got some kids that were young this year. We even got one or two good kids redshirted that will be coming up.
“I think we’ll have really good depth — and that’s a very (good thing).”
In addition to junior transfer Max Garcia, a former starter at Maryland that players were upset about now being able to make the Sugar Bowl trip, depth should be much improved. On paper, it appears to be quality depth at that.
For one three-game stretch this season, the Gators did not even have enough healthy lineman to run their “Jumbo” package, where six or even seven linemen bully defenses on power running plays. The sets helped Florida dominate the line of scrimmage and control time of possession in key October wins against LSU and South Carolina.
With the players coming back mixing with newcomers, the 2013 version of Florida’s “Jumbo” package will be a scary force opponents will have even more trouble stopping.
The entire right side will be back, but could be pressed for time in certain spots. Center Jonotthan Harrison, right guard Jon Halapio and right tackle Chaz Green are two-year starters and will be seniors in 2013. Another senior, Kyle Koehne, has the ability to play guard or tackle. Ian Silberman also will return after recently having shoulder surgery.
Then there’s the young crop. True freshman DJ Humphries pressed senior Xavier Nixon for playing time and even started three games at left tackle when Nixon injured his knee.
Jessamen Dunker, a 6-foot-4, 301-pound guard, made several road trips and could have played this season, according to coaches. Fortunately, the Gators were able to preserve his redshirt, so Dunker will return as a redshirt freshman next season.
There’s Tyler Moore, who had started every game as a true freshman tackle at Nebraska. He ended up earning All-Big Ten Freshman honors in 2010 before sitting out this past season while being enrolled at St. Petersburg College. The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder from Clearwater, Fla., will enroll at Florida next month and be able to join the Gators for spring practices.
Cameron Dillard, Octavious Jackson and Roderick Johnson are three signees with size and loads of potential who could help as well. However, there’s one huge — literally — signee who has his future teammates in awe and that’s Trenton Brown, a 6-8, 350-pounder. He originally committed to Georgia out of high school, but the Gators were able to get him to switch to UF after a year at Georgia Military College.
Brown possibly could replace Nixon at left tackle, which means Humphries could move inside or even to the other tackle spot.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel certainly likes the way the 2013 offensive line is shaping up, especially when he saw Brown, the guy who could be protecting his blind side.
“(Brown) was in the training room one day and I was excited he was on offense,” Driskel said. “I didn’t know if he was on offense or defense but when they said he was going to be a tackle — I was excited.
“That’s a big dude.”
With so much talent expected on the line, Gators’ coaches will have plenty of options. Their only problems, which are good problems to have, will be getting all of the capable lineman playing time as well as finding the most effective mix in terms of a starting five.
One problem Pease does not anticipate is chemistry, a key ingredient to the success of any offensive line as it must have five players all working together as one.
“They understand how to work together,” Pease said. “(Offensive line) coach (Tim) Davis does that with them and kind of develops their chemistry with it.
“I think they’re excited about (it).”
Pease and the rest of the team certainly are, too.