O-line newcomers racking up veteran praise

The hard-knocks of the game can rock some players too hard. But just as soon as injured players are thrust to the barricades of the sideline, someone has to step up and step in. Florida's contest against Vanderbilt Saturday shook plenty of veteran players off the field — particularly along the offensive line. While some injuries break teams, the Gators proved it would make them, instead.

In UF's 31-17 victory, young offensive linemen were truly tested in Coach Will Muschamp's "man up, man down" challenge, and they executed. A select few of Florida's familiar faces on the line (James Wilson, Xavier Nixon and Jonotthan Harrison) were either injured or absent from the o-line before the close of the game. Among the men asked to step up included two young Gators: sophomore Ian Silberman and freshman D.J. Humphries.

Prior to the start of his season, Silberman — an Orange Park native — said he wanted to work toward becoming an o-line starter. Saturday, he filled in for Wilson, posting his first career start.

Humphries, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound newcomer from North Carolina, enrolled at Florida in January as a five-star recruit out of Mallard Creek High School. He filled in for Nixon at left tackle after the senior was plagued with an upper-body injury during play.

Junior offensive lineman Jon Halapio said the transition from the level of competition in high school to the level of that in the SEC lies in the challenge of strengthening your technique including the areas of leverage and running off the ball.

Halapio commended Humphries ability to master these items thus far.

"He's not the biggest or the strongest guy, but he's really good technique-wise," Halapio said. "I think that helps him a lot. If the young guys can do that, then they'll be well off."

Another shocker in the transition to the college level, Halapio said, flashes in the men on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

"Everyone is so much bigger and faster than what you're used to," Halapio said. "In high school, you're pretty much going against average guys, a couple athletes here and there. But in college — especially in the SEC — it's different. He's way bigger. He's way stronger than you. You're pretty much going against the top three rounds in the NFL draft."

For the record, Halapio weighs in an impressive 321 pounds and measured up at 6 feet and 3 inches.

But with an undefeated record and an inconsistency in the names pinned to the starting lineup, the younger players are clearly adjusting well to the size of the opposition and seasoned players.

Sophomore offensive tackle Chaz Green also praised his younger teammates, especially in their ability to execute against Vanderbilt. Green attributed their continued success to good decision-making and solid coaching.

"They're just picking up on stuff quick," Green said. "Coach (Tim) Davis is a great coach. He's really good with attention to detail. He's good at developing guys, so I think that they made tremendous leaps from camp to now. That shows in their playing time."

In Wednesday's SEC teleconference, Muschamp announced Wilson, Harrison and Nixon were likely to return to play for Saturday's faceoff against South Carolina. Despite the names pinned as this weekend's starters on the line, Florida's performance against Vanderbilt proved its effectiveness in tackling those unexpected hard-knocks and the classification years of the anecdotes are no issue.


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