With the Orange and Blue Debut in the rear view, the Florida Gators football team enters the doldrums of the off-season. The team will workout together through the off season with the strength and conditioning staff but Jim McElwain and his coaching staff are solely focused on recruiting with the spring evaluation period beginning.
With that in mind Gator Country will go over where the current roster stands, what the depth chart looks like, and how the 13 incoming freshmen will fit in at their positions when they arrive on campus in June.
So far we’ve covered quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, defensive ends, defensive tackles, linebackers, tight ends and cornerbacks. Today we turn our focus to where everything starts on the offense, up front with the offensive line.
RS Junior — Antonio Riles
RS Junior — Cam Dillard
Junior — David Sharpe
RS Sophomore — Kavaris Harkless
RS Sophomore — Andrew Mike
Sophomore — Tyler Jordan
Sophomore — Fred Johnson
Sophomore — Martez Ivey
RS Freshman — Nick Buchanan
RS Freshman — Brandon Sandifer
RS Freshman — Richerd Desir-Jones
RS Freshman — T.J. McCoy
Freshman — Stone Forsythe
Questions heading into spring
The Gators entered the 2016 spring camp in a vastly different predicament than they did the previous year. A year ago Florida barely had enough offensive linemen to make it through camp and this year they would return three starters, four if you include Fred Johnson, who started two games last year. The question that surrounded this unit would be could they take the next step? How much have they progressed and can they be a strength in 2016?
What we learned
The answer is yes. This offensive line group has the potential to be better than the 2015 group. The three sophomores that return this year (Ivey, Jordan and Johnson) all are projected starters. The experience they earned as freshmen is invaluable. David Sharpe gives Florida more experience. Those four players started a combined 26 games last year. That experience can’t be faked, or understated. Add in Cam Dillard’s 11 starts and the Gators have more than triple the experience along the starting five offensive linemen than they did at this time last year.
In the spring Tyler Jordan was the most consistent lineman. Jordan has taken so many strides since he arrived on campus and he was a force at right guard. Cam Dillard continues to improve but left guard was a weak spot for Florida in the spring. Martez Ivey is the presumed starter there, and his absence while recovering from shoulder surgery was evident. Ivey struggled towards the end of last season but his play was affected by the injury that needed surgery in the offseason and the end of last season shouldn’t be indicative of what he could be when healthy. With the starting five of Sharpe, Ivey, Dillard, Jordan and Johnson, the Gators still needed to find depth.
Right now it would appear that Florida did find some depth with T.J. McCoy looking good in spots at center. Richerd Desir-Jones also worked after practice snapping the ball, and could be used as an emergency center, or somewhere to backup on the interior. At tackle, though, Florida really only has three true options, with Johnson Sharpe and Ivey. Martez Ivey will be penciled in to start, right now probably at guard, but has experience playing tackle. Johnson showed a lot of promise last year but struggled at times in the spring. It’s obvious that Johnson is still raw and learning the game. He was able to perform last year, but as a starter he’ll asked to do more and looked to be swimming mentally with some of that in the spring.
The interesting piece of the equation could be freshman Brett Heggie, who projected and was recruited as a center. With the Gators feeling good about Dillard and the emergence of McCoy, not to mention Tyler Jordan’s ability to play center, Heggie could be used at guard. If Florida needed to swing Ivey outside, Heggie could be the piece that allows them to do that.
The core group has emerged and there is some depth, particularly inside that looks good. Desir-Jones, Nick Buchanan and Brandon Sandifer (who has done an incredible job dropping nearly 50 pounds since last year) can give you depth inside. AT tackle there is less depth, but still a lot of potential. Is the offensive line better this year than it was last year? Yes, it should be. A lot of that depends on guys progressing as we think they will moving from their freshman year or redshirt freshman year to the next, but the sentiment that Florida is better today than they were at any point in 2015 along the offense line shouldn’t be doubted.