HOOVER, Ala. — David Sharpe’s first full season as a Florida starter likely taught the junior a number of lessons. But mainly, 2015 served as fuel for the tackle and his offensive line mates, who combined to give up the SEC’s highest sack total (45.0) on the year.
Now, with fall camp fast approaching, Sharpe and the Gators are squarely focused on proving that their blocking blunders are well behind them.
“We use it as motivation,” Sharpe said while addressing reporters at SEC Media Days. “We feel like we’re much better as a group this year. Something we can work on… We had a lot of things going on with the line last year.”
Those “things” include Florida starting three different freshmen on the O-line before last January’s Citrus Bowl, which is something position coach Mike Summers said was a first in his 36-year career. The group became a revolving door and at one point was likened to a bunch of “dead fish” by coach Jim McElwain.
Driving this desire even further is the offseason attention being widely paid to Tennessee and Georgia — programs some are predicting will supplant the Gators as SEC East champions this fall — and, of course, the unceremonious collapse UF experienced on offense in the season’s final few games.
McElwain’s squad managed just 24 total points against Florida State, Alabama and Michigan to end the season.
“It’s talked about a lot. It was very disappointing to us. We felt like we could’ve done much better. But it was definitely motivation heading into the offseason,” Sharpe said.
But this year the unit returns deeper, more seasoned and unsurprisingly eager to shed the label of weak link on the Florida offense. And Sharpe is ready and willing to guide the rest of the front five into what he hopes is a much more successful 2016.
“I’ll be more of a vocal leader, more of a practice leader,” Sharpe said. “A guy someone looks up to, that can come and ask me anything.”