The word sends chills down the spine of sports fans and they pull their hair out only to have grey ones take their place.
But sports are cyclical. The hot team or program for four, five or six years likely won’t stay there. Look at FSU fans who recount “the lost decade” before going on their run the past two seasons. Look at the Gators, who ripped off win after win and two championships in a three-year period. Not everyone will reach the mountaintop but everyone will spend some time down in the valley.
Coming off of a 7-5 season and with a new coach at the helm the Gators are rebuilding. The rebuilding is no more evident than along the offensive line where the team has just eight offensive linemen on scholarship and only three prospects currently committed.
“Let’s face it,” Jim McElwain said. “You guys look at our attrition on the offensive line it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure we don’t have many numbers there.”
The Gators numbers are scary thin on the line. It’s part of the reason that offensive line coach Mike Summer was retained on staff when McElwain took over. Summers did an incredible job with the offensive line last season. Summers is aware that he’s working with less than a cupboard but he is confident that the rebuilding process already has two cornerstones.
David Sharpe and Rod Johnson both played considerable time last year as freshmen — Johnson as a redshirt freshman and Sharpe as a true freshman.
“Certainly those are two key positions,” Summers said of his bookend linemen. “Rod Johnson is just an absolute pleasure to be around. A kid that you just love to put your arm around and watch him grow. He’s like a plant that you put water on and you just see him start to develop.”
Johnson’s passion on the field is evident. Max Garcia and Chaz Green have said they’ve had to tell him to tone it down at times, not to get too high on the highs or too low on the lows. The passion he plays with is what makes him a special player. Johnson played every game this past season, rotating in at right tackle, earning starts against Kentucky and Alabama. He also played right guard when Florida needed him there.
Sharpe came to Florida as a highly touted recruit from Providence School of Jacksonville. The biggest knock on him was that he was too light, needed to gain weight to play in the SEC. Sharpe showed up at Florida weighing 330 pounds and hadn’t lost a step on the field. He played in five games as a freshman and held up well in his biggest test against Alabama.
“Of course David has come in and how to be a college football player and that process is still going on,” said Summers.
So, yes, on one hand it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that the Gators need some help on the offensive line. The coaching staff is trying to address that through recruiting. There is, however, a great foundation to work with and two young, talented bookends to build around.