Camp preview: Offensive line

The offensive line was full of moving parts last fall. Injuries forced players to line up at different positions in multiple games, and only two of the projected starters this season played in every game last year.

It’s still an experienced unit. All five starters have experience in the starting lineup, whether that came last season or in the year before. If injuries strike, the offensive line could be in for a long season again, but the starting five is a group that the coaching staff trusts.

It starts at the offensive tackle position. Florida returns 28 combined starts between Chaz Green and D.J. Humphries. Humphries, the left tackle, has always struggled to keep his weight up at Florida, but Will Muschamp said at SEC Media Days that the junior tackle is now up to 295 pounds. A knee injury ended his 2013 season, but he was healthy for the spring and got through it healthy. He got into fall camp as the starter at left tackle.

Green also dealt with an injury last season, but his came in fall camp. The redshirt senior tore his labrum going into the season and was forced to miss the entire season. He comes into his fifth year at Florida with 19 career starts under his belt. Even while battling inconsistencies on the field during his previous season, Green looked good in the spring and should anchor the right tackle position.

The most interesting story of the spring was Max Garcia’s transformation to center. He played guard and tackle last season for Florida, but the coaching staff liked his athleticism and intelligence at the center position this year. The move had the coaches skeptical early in the spring. Garcia struggled with snapping, but it improved near the end of camp.

This is an important camp for Garcia. Everyone knows he is talented, but he has to work on the smaller parts of the game. He’s a natural leader and should handle that part of the new position with ease.

After Green and Humphries looked good in the spring, the coaches felt comfortable about moving Trenton Brown to right guard, getting their best five linemen on the field together. Brown, the 6-8, 350-pound senior, is the definition of a road-grader at guard and should play a big role in the running game.

Tyler Moore didn’t play well in fall camp last year and got off to a slow start during the season, but his play improved in the following weeks. That all ended when he fell off his scooter and broke his elbow during the week before the Georgia game. This year, he should be a good fit at left guard after struggling with quicker pass rushers last season when he played tackle.

After the five listed above, there’s a drop off. That’s not great news on the offensive line, a position group that rarely stays completely healthy throughout the course of the season. The Gators have to stay healthy.

Trip Thurman looks to be the first offensive lineman off the bench. He has worked at guard, tackle and center during his practice time in recent years and provides versatility. Redshirt freshman Rod Johnson is a lineman the coaches are high on and should be able to move around, too. He dealt with a head injury that kept him from participating in the spring, but he has a high ceiling.

Florida signed junior college transfer Drew Sarvary in the 2014 class, and junior college players don’t come in to redshirt. Expect Sarvary to provide immediate depth off the bench.

Antonio Riles will be one to watch this fall. He went into the spring as a defensive tackle, but Will Muschamp approached him about a move to the offensive side of the ball. He moved to guard to find a quicker route to get on the field. He’s still raw on the offensive side, but the more reps he gets, the quicker he will become adjusted. At 6-4, 288 pounds, he has the size to hang in the middle of the line.

Cam Dillard came to Florida to play center, but he wasn’t ready to take over when Jonotthan Harrison graduated following last season. He took a redshirt last season and is now up to 6-4, 297 pounds.

The Gators have five freshmen offensive linemen on the roster this year. Kavaris Harkless and Nolan Kelleher were the two that enrolled early and went through spring practices. A back injury held Kelleher out in the spring and could force him to redshirt this fall.

Travaris Dorsey, Andrew Mike and David Sharpe all enrolled over the summer. Dorsey is 6-2, 333 pounds and profiles as an interior lineman. Mike is 6-6, 276 pounds and looks like an offensive tackle. Sharpe has the elite athleticism but is raw at offensive tackle. His 6-6, 336-pound frame has star potential.

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