Gators thin at important spots on roster

Looking over the roster has created many sleepless nights for Florida coach Jim McElwain.

He made it clear on Tuesday that it’s not the talent that concerns him. It’s the numbers. Questions about the spring game format were asked, but he wasn’t concerned with that. The first-year Florida coach is just concerned with finding a way to get through spring practice.

“Obviously, our numbers from a roster numbers standpoint are nowhere near where we need to be,” Jim McElwain said. “We’re thin at linebacker, very, very thin at offensive line, to the point that – we all knew this was coming, so it’s not a shock – but we’re going to have to adjust how we practice, the amount of reps we get and the different ways in which we do things from a practice structure.”

It’s causing McElwain and his staff to go back to the drawing board, trying to come up with creative ways to make practice work. Whether as a head coach at Colorado State or as an assistant coach at multiple stops, McElwain doesn’t like when his players are standing still during practice.

He always wants them working on something, either in a drill or getting work on the side.

“That’s the cards we were dealt,” McElwain said. “That will be alright. The key is to making sure we get as much work as we can with as many people as we can to kind of establish who we are and what we’re all about and the direction we’re going to head with this football team as we move in from spring ball and into the summer sessions.”

The numbers at linebacker are thin. With Antonio Morrison (knee) out for the spring and Jarrad Davis (knee) not expected to practice much, the Gators are left with just four scholarship linebackers -- Alex Anzalone, Daniel McMillian, Jeremi Powell and Matt Rolin.

But on the offensive line, it’s even worse.

It was expected to be bad when Florida had eight scholarship offensive linemen heading into the spring, but McElwain said on Tuesday that Trip Thurman would miss the spring with a shoulder injury. The staff is hoping an eight-month layoff will prepare him for the fall.

Thurman’s injury means the most experienced offensive lineman on the field this spring is Roderick Johnson, who started just three games last season.

“It’s been a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure out how we’re gonna practice,” McElwain said. “It will be an evolution because it’s something that, moving forward, we need to get our roster back up. It’s the same way at linebacker. Just from a depth standpoint, we’ve got good players. I’m not saying anything about players; I’m just talking about structurally about how you practice to get the most out of it. It will be a little different.

“Based on those numbers, even if you get one dinged or a couple dinged here and there then that’s really gonna change how we do things. And yet, out of all the positions, those O-linemen are gonna get some valuable reps, now. There’s no replacing true reps and so when you see kind of how we practice guys aren’t standing around.”

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