Florida’s offensive line has struggled mightily the past few seasons. Last season, like most of the team, the offensive line was ravaged by injury. Jon Halapio missed two games, D.J. Humphries missed most of the season, Chaz Green missed the entire year and Tyler Moore missed time as well.
More than another position group, the offensive line needs to work as a cohesive unit and it’s difficult to accomplish that when you’re mixing guys up like a dealer shuffling cards in Vegas.
Offensive line coach Tim Davis was relieved of his duties and new offensive line coach Mike Summers brings more than 30 years of coaching experience and a cool, calm, collected attitude to the offensive line.
Can Summers make a difference? Here’s what he has to work with in 2014.
Left tackle: D.J. Humphries (Jr.), Roderick Johnson (R-Fr.)
D.J. Humphries had a down sophomore season. After impressing as a rookie, Humphries battled injuries all last season and was never really himself. He continues to add good weight and size (he’s now listed at 290-pounds) and is looking to have a bounce back season protecting Jeff Driskel’s blindside.
As a junior, this season also holds additional significance for Humphries. With the height and frame of an NFL offensive tackle, Humphries’ performance this season will be closely looked at by NFL scouts and a good season will improve his draft stock.
Roderick Johnson missed most of the spring with an injury but he is a player that is continually brought up and praised by the coaching staff. Johnson can play inside at guard or outside at tackle, however, other than moving Max Garcia over to left tackle in case of an injury, Johnson is the best option to replace Humphries.
Left Guard: Tyler Moore (R-Jr.), Kavaris Harkless (Fr.)
Tyler Moore struggled mightily at right tackle last season, especially against speed rushers. While Moore played tackle at Nebraska, he’s better suited to play inside and the move from right tackle to left guard will serve him and the Gators well. Moore played with a very restrictive brace on his right arm (a precaution following surgery) and didn’t miss any time. He’ll be much better because of the move inside and should play well next to Max Garcia and Humphries.
Kavaris Harkless will likely start the season on the two-deep depth chart but he is a little underweight and will need a year to develop. He’s a player that can make an impact at Florida but I believe it will take a year.
Center: Max Garcia (R-Sr.), Trip Thurman (R-Jr.)
Max Garcia played started at left guard but eventually moved over to left tackle when Humphries went down with an injury. He’ll move to center this year and has already become the vocal leader of the offensive line. Garcia is a very smart football player who will excel in the middle of the offense this season.
Florida’s only other true center on the roster is Cam Dillard but Florida will opt with experience here, in my opinion. Trip Thurman has been in Gainesville for four years and has been a serviceable backup. He can play all three interior positions and he can step in at center in case Garcia goes down with an injury.
Right Guard: Trenton Brown (Sr.), Drew Sarvary (Jr.)
Trenton Brown pushed Chaz Green for the starting right tackle spot this spring. Although Green won that battle, Brown’s performance was too good to keep him out of the starting lineup. A junior college transfer, Brown played sparingly at right tackle last season and looked good. However, like Moore, Brown will benefit from the move inside.
Another junior college transfer, Sarvary will likely serve as a backup for both guard positions this season before he challenges for a starting job in 2015.
Right Tackle: Chaz Green (R-Sr.), David Sharpe (Fr.)
Chaz Green tore his labrum prior to the 2013 season and was forced to the sideline. The injury set Florida’s line back last season and they’re happy to have him back. Green is an instant upgrade at right tackle from last season and he had to earn that starting spot this spring.
David Sharpe is a very talented freshman from Jacksonville. Will Muschamp likes to have freshmen offensive linemen redshirt if possible, but Sharpe could be an option if injuries take their toll on the starting five again this season.
The Rest: Antonio Riles (R-Fr.), Cam Dillard (R-Fr.), Nolan Kelleher (Fr.), Andrew Mike (Fr.), Travaris Dorsey (Fr.),
Antonio Riles made the move from defense to offense this spring. He’ll need a year to acclimate completely to a new position but is a player that will provide depth in the future.
Cam Dillard will likely take another year to develop but he’s a long-term option at center and is still currently the only true center on the roster.
Nolan Kelleher will miss this season after back surgery. He was a likely redshirt even before the injury.
Andrew Mike and Travaris Dorsey are both on redshirt watch this season.