While Florida recruitniks have been in a panic over the fact the Gators signed only two offensive linemen, two defensive linemen, and no defensive tackles, new coach Will Muschamp has said he feels good about both lines of scrimmage, other than a slight concern about a lack of depth.
Well, after breaking down what the UF roster likely will look like in the fall, I can see how Muschamp has a positive vibe about the offensive line. But I’m not seeing it on the defensive line, where the Gators could find itself in a scary situation, especially at defensive tackle.
First, we’ll address the positives:
• Barring a boatload of injuries, the Gators should be fine on the offensive line. They will have 14 scholarship linemen on the roster and four guys who have started games in the past — Jon Halapio, Xavier Nixon, Matt Patchan and James Wilson. Depth is a little bit of a concern, but the Gators have numbers and some experience here — enough of both that there should be no major issues up front, barring injuries.
• On the defensive line, the Gators have two veteran tackles returning (Jaye Howard and Omar Hunter) and three gifted true sophomores who picked up valuable playing experience last season (end Ronald Powell and tackles Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley). Also, ends William Green, Lerentee McCray and Earl Okine have been around for a while and have shown they can play. Another potential positive is the fact the Gators are expected to play a three-man front a great deal, which would lessen the numbers crunch.
Now, to the negative, starting with the offensive line:
• Three of the 12 scholarship offensive linemen on campus this spring (Patchan, Wilson and David Young) have a long history of injuries that have kept them off the field for a large chunk of their careers. Here’s something else to consider: UF’s two incoming freshmen (Tommy Jordan and Trip Thurman) likely are not going to be physically ready to play in the SEC in the fall. That would leave the Gators with only 12 scholarship offensive linemen who are game ready, and that number could drop given the medical history of several players.
• On the defensive line, the Gators are scary thin at defensive tackle. They have only four scholarship tackles — Howard, Hunter, Floyd and Easley — to work with this spring, and that number may not change in the fall because the Gators were shut out at the position in recruiting. The Gators do have some possibilities inside. Okine has played tackle before, and there a chance redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Leon Orr could go back to defensive tackle, the position he played in high school. But there are not a whole lot of options at defensive tackle. The situation is a little better at end, where the Gators will have eight scholarship players in the fall, although two (Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook) will be true freshmen.
Overall, Muschamp says he feels good about both lines of scrimmage. But that could change in a hurry if the Gators are hit with some injuries on the defensive front, especially at tackle, where the numbers simply are not there at the moment. Signing defensive tackles will be priority No. 1 next recruiting season.
Here’s look at the scholarship linemen that will be on the roster in the fall: