Florida football coach Will Muschamp did not rule out DJ Humphries’ chances of starting against No. 4 LSU at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Humphries, a talented and improving true freshman, is pressing senior Xavier Nixon for playing time at left tackle for the No. 10 Gators.
During his meeting with the media on Wednesday, Muschamp was asked if he believes Humphries would be able to provide “quality time off of the bench or in a starting role” despite the Tigers’ defense posing such a difficult challenge?
“Whoever practices the best will play and we expect [Humphries] to do a championship job,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp said he has a lot of respect for LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis and the Tigers’ defense as a whole, especially the defensive line.
“This is probably as good a front four in college football,” Muschamp said. “You look at [defensive ends Barkevious] Mingo and [Sam] Montgomery and [Lavar] Edwards and [Jermauria] Rasco, the edge pressure they’re able to create with four guys rushing.
“They’re very talented across the board.”
Led by the big, fast bodies up front, LSU’s defense is second in the Southeastern Conference in total defense.
Blocking that front would be difficult task for a typical true freshman, but Humphries isn’t a typical true freshman. He’s listed at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds and was a consensus five-star prospect by recruiting services out of Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek High. He also was the No. 2 prospect in the nation by Rivals.com.
None of Humphries’ high school hype will matter come Saturday because, whether he starts or not, he’ll be lined up against one of the most dominant defensive ends in the nation. Montgomery, a 6-5, 260-pound junior, was a first-team All-American and Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award finalist in 2011.
Edwards is Montgomery’s backup and the 6-5, 258-pound senior brings experience, something Humphries cannot match.
Edwards and Montgomery have played in a combined 58 games and 25 starts.
Humphries has played in four — with no starts.
However, Humphries’ quickness may provide the best matchup for the Gators against LSU’s speedy defensive ends. By all accounts, Humphries — regardless of experience — is much quicker than Nixon.
“We have all the confidence in the world in him,” said UF quarterback Jeff Driskel, the player whose blindside Humphries would be protecting. “It’s definitely hard [for a true freshman to start], especially with the SEC defensive line that are so fast and have such good get off the ball. But he’s quick as well. He has great technique, and he’s a smart player.
“He’ll be fine.”