Rebuilding the left side

The departure of left tackle Xavier Nixon and left guard James Wilson leaves the Gators with two spots to fill on the offensive line this spring. The depth chart lists sophomore D.J. Humphries as the starter at left tackle with redshirt junior Max Garcia the starter at left guard. The two have the talent to hold the spots, but they have to put together strong springs to keep them.

The concern for D.J. Humphries out of high school was only his weight. The former five-star was ranked as the No. 3 offensive tackle in the country out of Mallard Creek High School, but he was listed at just 262 pounds. The frame to grow was there, but Humphries earned his reputation by his flexibility, footwork and potential.

Now heading into his sophomore season at Florida, Humphries is now over 280 pounds. It's still not the ideal weight for a left tackle in the Southeastern Conference, but he has time to add to that before the start of the 2013 season in the fall.

"That was always an issue when we played the bigger teams, being able to set and hold the edge and get some movement in the run game," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said about Humphries.

What he may lack in weight is made up for with his instincts and technique. That's what earned Humphries playing time as a freshman in 2012, when he played in all 12 games and started against South Carolina, Missouri and Louisiana.

Most of Humphries' time last year was spent as a sixth offensive lineman, lining up as a tight end to give the Gators an extra lineman to block in power sets. He earned that role because of his advanced technique for a true freshman and the athleticism to match it.

"God has blessed him with a lot of ability: size, strength, all the things, the skill set you're looking for," Muschamp said. "And then he has the heart and the desire to want to be a good football player."

Humphries earned a spot on the First Team Offense SEC Coaches' All-Freshman team and the Sporting News Freshman All-America team. The goal is now to take the next step, build on that momentum in the spring and lock down a starting position at left tackle in the fall.

"He's extremely intelligent first of all and extremely confident," Muschamp said. "He's just a really good athlete. He can bend his lower body. He can set the edge against a speed rush.

"He had a hard time anchoring against the bigger players, some of the bull rushes, but he's a guy now that's building that anchor, building that core, worked extremely hard. Football is important to D.J. He worked hard at football.

Florida knows what it can get from Humphries this fall because the coaches saw him do it last season on the field as a freshman.

That's not the case with Max Garcia.

The redshirt junior sat out last season after transferring to Florida from Maryland after the 2011 season. He played in 14 games during his career with the Terps, including starting all 12 games during his sophomore season. Those 12 starts all came at left tackle.

Garcia (right) will make an impact this year

When he came to Gainesville, Garcia moved inside to the guard position. It could pay off in a starting position, as just Kyle Koehne was listed behind him on the pre-spring depth chart. Koehne is also listed as the backup at center and right guard. Redshirt freshman guard Jessamen Dunker could also get back into the mix if he is allowed to rejoin the team.

For now, it's Garcia's job without much competition behind him.

"Max Garcia has been a real good addition, tough, physical inside player," Muschamp said. "Great kid, does everything you ask. He's a guy I'm excited about."

TIGHT ENDS NEED TO IMPROVE: While the Florida receivers struggled to get open in 2012, the key to the passing game was tight end Jordan Reed. The Gators are still searching to find who it will be at the tight end position this season.

"Gotta get better," Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "Just gotta get better. Not good enough right now."

The coaching staff hasn't been holding back its words about the position this spring. With the downhill rushing attack Muschamp wants to use, the Gators need an attached tight end that can stand on the edge and block.

Colin Thompson is back with the team after breaking his foot last season and should serve as that player, but the overall depth at the position isn't where the coaches want it to be.

"If I'm those guys, I understand that and see what happened with Jordan – I'd want to be that guy," Pease said. "They've got to step up and earn that role."

Pease also said that Tevin Westbrook is "starting to do some good things" since he is working only at tight end this spring. He didn't move to the position until after spring practice last year.

If the Gators can't get that passing game production from the tight end position, then they'll have to find it somewhere else.

"A lot of the intermediate passing game was to Jordan Reed," Muschamp said. "That's where we are kind of searching now. Our backs are capable of that if we can't get the production from the tight end position."

Westbrook is in his first full spring at tight end

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