If there is a silver lining to the troubles on the offensive line it is that there seems to be adequate and talented people in line to play offensive tackle.
Redshirt sophomore Roderick Johnson (6-6, 296) may be the most talented lineman in the group and has shown the ability to play right tackle as well as guard. He is better suited at tackle, but that flexibility thing we talked about may make him too valuable not to play inside. We will have to wait to see how things play out, but Johnson is a very good player with a very bright future.
When pressed into duty a few times last year sophomore David Sharpe (6-6, 350), who was a true freshman at the time, performed very well. If you had to pick a starting left tackle right now, Sharpe would be the smart bet. He’s massive and he swallows pass rushers. He proved a lot of people wrong, including me, who thought there was no chance he would see the field last year. He still has a lot of work to do, but he should have a bright future as well.
One of the more important guys on the line for the success of the whole unit could very well be redshirt freshman Andrew Mike (6-6, 302). Mike was a pleasant surprise last year in how fast he learned things and how fast he physically prepared himself to play. He came very close to seeing the field a year ago, but they were able to hold off. If Mike can play that right tackle spot, the possibility of moving Johnson inside would be very likely.
If you combine the above information with the fact that the Gators will have the number one high school offensive tackle in the country on campus in June with the arrival of Martez Ivey, things seem to be pretty positive on the edges of the line.
The questions on the inside of the line were only compounded by the loss of senior Trip Thurman (6-5, 310) who will miss all of spring and likely parts of the fall as well as he recuperates from a shoulder injury. Thurman was maybe the most reliable lineman in the unit a year ago and was a real possibility to play center. Either way his loss will hurt the guard situation as well.
The player that has the best history beyond the group listed above is former defensive lineman, redshirt sophomore Antonio Riles (6-4, 312). There was a point in August a year ago when Riles was playing well and had a chance to see real playing time, but others played better and that playing time never arrived. He’s slowly built his body into playing weight for the SEC and he is there now. How well he can operate at 312 pounds remains to be seen, but he will get a lot of reps to prove himself this spring.
An intriguing player this spring is redshirt freshman Kavaris Harkless (6-5, 292). Harkless arrived in January last year as an early enrollee. Originally scheduled to play tackle, he bulked up a little and was playing guard at the end of the year on the scout team. He could end up at either spot or even center. His intelligence may allow him to be one of those really flexible guys they can come to count on.
Dillard has spent three years getting his body right to play at an SEC level. He came to Florida as one of the highest rated center prospects in the high school ranks. Now is his time to prove himself.
Dorsey is intriguing in his own right. He’s built more to play center than anywhere on the line. He plays the game with a mean and nasty attitude, and that can go a long way if he can handle the other duties associated with the center position. He’s a possible shorter version of one of the Pounceys if you will.
Any of the guys listed at guard could slide in at center as well. Like we mentioned, the versatility of this group is going to be very important to the success.