This past spring we talked a lot about the offensive line depth. The Gators started the offseason with eight healthy scholarship linemen before Jim McElwain announced that Trip Thurman (shoulder) would sit out the spring camp in an effort to give him a full offseason to let a chronic issue heal. Then, with just a week left in camp, Rod Johnson found out his football career was done as he received the diagnosis of spinal stenosis.
Six. That’s the number of healthy offensive linemen the Gators currently have, five if you count out David Sharpe who just had eye surgery (he’ll be fine for workouts this summer).
So that leaves me in a predicament. We set out on this journey to break down the two deep depth chart using only players who were already on campus. However, like McElwain and the Florida coaching staff, I must improvise, adapt and overcome — my job, putting words on the Internet, slightly easier than theirs.
So, for just this installment, we’ll include freshmen that have yet to arrive on campus. The Gators added six offensive linemen and could potentially have added seven if they decide to move Andrew Ivie over from the defensive line.
The Gators are in a tough spot after losing D.J. Humphries and Tyler Moore early and an even tougher spot after losing their best returning lineman in Johnson. No coach wants to have to depend on freshmen offensive lineman. No position requires more of a projection from high school to college than the o-line but those are the cards that Florida was dealt. So let’s play.
Starter: David Sharpe
Backup: Martez Ivey
Sharpe played left tackle all throughout spring. He’s added a lot of weight — so much in fact that Mike Summers has asked him to shed some pounds — and he struggled at times with speed rushers like Daniel McMillian and Alex McCalister. Sharpe is Florida’s only option at left tackle, so, for better or worse, he’ll be there.
Sharpe did look good when called upon last season. He was forced into a starting role several times and performed admirably at Tuscaloosa. Other than the times he started, Sharpe mainly rotated it or played in a heavy o-line set. Gator fans remember the disappointing career paths that Xavier Nixon and D.J. Humphries had following good freshman campaigns and can only hope Sharpe doesn’t fall to the same fate.
When you talk about projecting offensive linemen, Martez Ivey is exactly what you mean. He’s 6-6, 290 pounds but long and lean. He has long arms but played in a run-dominant offense. How is he as a pass blocker? Can he beat the learning curve when he enrolls this summer and be reliable as a freshman? Ivey has all the physical tools and he’s Florida’s best option at tackle outside of Sharpe.
Starter: Antonio Riles
Backup: Travaris Dorsey
Riles is a defensive transplant — a move that normally signals the end of an offensive lineman’s career. However, Riles impressed the coaching staff with the strides that he as able to make after making the move last year and the progression he showed this spring. Riles is a big, strong lineman who will benefit from playing next to Sharpe and an experienced guy like Trip Thurman.
If Florida had more numbers, Dorsey would be bound for a redshirt. Dorsey came to Florida last year badly out of shape and while he’s making strides to get back into shape, he isn’t quite there yet.
Starter: Trip Thurman
Backup: Cam Dillard
Thurman is the most experienced returning offensive lineman. He’s battled injuries his entire career so that is something to keep an eye on. Florida worked just about every offensive lineman at center this spring in case of an emergency situation.
Dillard made great strides this spring. I remember ducking and diving down on the sidelines in the fourth quarter, as Florida was finishing off a win over Vanderbilt. Dillard, some 10 yards away from me was snapping, unsuccessfully, to a graduate assistant. He is benefitting from much of the offense being under center and should be adequate in the running game but a liability in pass protection.
Starter: Andrew Mike
Backup: Richerd Desir-Jones
Mike needed a year to redshirt but appeared to be the most advanced interior offensive linemen this spring. He looks to have locked down a starting job as of now and could have a nice career when it’s all said and done.
Desir-Jones is raw. His high school offensive coordinator used the word “potential” because Desir-Jones has only been playing offensive line for a little over a year. However, RDJ is a district, county and state champion wrestler, he understands leverage and how to use it to his advantage. This is a critical aspect of playing offensive line and something that takes years to learn. He’s ahead of the game in that aspect and at 6-4, 290, he’s well on his way to having the size to play right away.
Starter: Martez Ivey
Backup: Kavaris Harkless
The spot that would have been Rod Johnsons is now Ivey’s to lose. The coaching staff would have loved to have been able to ease Ivey into playing — like the previous staff did with Sharpe — but that’s not reality anymore. Ivey is going to be thrown into the deep end and we’re going to see if the young man will sink or swim pretty quickly.
Harkless is still a year or two away. Anyone who tuned into the Orange and Blue Debut saw that.