GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Over the last few years, depth has been the issue for Florida along the offensive line.
From 2010 to 2012, the Gators only signed two players at the position in each class and three of those six linemen transferred from Florida.
That three-year stretch of recruiting decimated Florida’s O-line depth, and it has taken four cycles to get the numbers back up.
“Numbers were just in really bad shape,” said Gators offensive line coach Mike Summers, who was hired in January of 2014.
Summers signed six linemen in that 2014 class, and Florida brought in five the year before. Those signees should have solved the problem, but didn’t.
Two of them were junior college transfers in Drew Sarvary and Trenton Brown. Sarvary suffered a career-ending injury as did Octavious Jackson, Nolan Kelleher and Roderick Johnson.
Travaris Dorsey and Trevon Young also transferred, so six of those 11 signees from 2013 and 2014 did not last with the Gators. In the last two years, nine linemen have been signed by Florida, which put the roster back up to 15.
“It’s been a long climb. A long, hard climb,” Summers said. “Losing all those guys that we lost in ’14, juniors in that group as well. There were a string of medical redshirts that came through here my first year and the year before, and it just left us so short. So we’re gradually building our way back to where we’ve at least got depth.
“Certainly we need every year to improve our talent level as we go forward, but we’re on that road, that climb back now. I think we do have some bodies to work with and some guys that are in there developing right now as we go forward. Certainly most of those guys that we’ve had in the last year, year and a half, those guys are really young and really inexperienced.”
Five underclassmen have started on the offensive line this year. That youth has been evident through the four games. The unit’s play is still problematic and inconsistent because of the lack of development and readiness of Florida’s linemen.
All 15 should return in 2017. This season as well as as spring practices and the offseason strength program will pay dividends for them next fall. However, the Gators need to continue recruiting to add talent at the position.
With true freshmen starting on the offensive line, Summers can sell early playing time to prospects.
“With recruiting right now, the players that we’re on and the players that we’re recruiting with, all those guys got talent to come in and compete for positions, and they know that,” Summers said. “I think the recruits that see what we’ve done here, and we’re not saying, ‘Hey, if you’re a freshman, when you come in here, you have to redshirt on the offensive line.’
“You have an opportunity to compete for a position and as long as coach Mac is here and as long as I’m here, the best five guys are going to go out there and play. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior, we’re gonna put the best five guys out there. So, certainly, young players have shown that they can come in and have an impact in our offense.”
Florida commit presented with Under Armour All-America Game jersey
Daquon Green is the lone All-American commit in Florida’s 2017 class, and he was honored by Under Armour on Tuesday.
The 4-star wide receiver from Tampa, Fla., was presented with his jersey during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour.
The Under Armour All-America Game will be held on Jan. 1, 2017 in Orlando, Fla.