A pizza delivery guy, a bartender and an engineering student, walk on to a football field. No, that isn’t the beginning of a bad joke but that is who Head Coach Jim McElwain joked helped the Florida Gators finish out the spring with just six healthy offensive linemen.
If the past few years have taught Florida Gators fans anything it’s that injuries happen. Football is a violent game where overgrown humans are running full speed into each other and throughout the course of the season those collisions will result in injuries. A team needs to be prepared to withstand that and the Gators barely had enough offensive linemen to field a starting five, let alone have any sort of depth to be able to handle an injury.
Coach McElwain made comments that the Gators were “insufficient” numbers wise in some areas and since taking this job he’s done everything he can to build those numbers up. On top of signing seven offensive linemen in his first recruiting class, McElwain has added two-time FCS All-American offensive lineman Mason Halter (from Fordham) and another transfer in T.J. McCoy (North Carolina State Wolfpack). Both upperclassmen will be eligible immediately. Halter and McCoy will enroll with the rest of the freshman class this week for the start of Summer B. With the addition of the two transfers and the freshman, the Gators will go into fall camp with 15 offensive linemen on scholarship, right about the numbers that Coach McElwain will want.
The numbers may be right and the Gators are certainly in a better place today than they were two months ago, but the line will be young and inexperienced, far from strength on the offense. Question marks will surround the line. Can a FCS offensive lineman — an All-American — transfer and be reliable in the SEC? Can freshman like McCoy and Martez Ivey beat the learning curve and provide depth — if not immediate playing time — from the start?
Thanks to tireless effort from Coach McElwain and his staff the Florida Gators will be able to field an offensive line this season. That didn’t look like it would be the case when they took over.