Notebook: Gators short on offensive linemen

With seven scholarship offensive linemen going through spring ball, the Gators had to get creative.

The Florida football offices put out a call to any students that wanted to try out and give the Gators improved numbers. In his first time on the practice field as the coach of the Gators, even Jim McElwain joked that he might’ve needed to be involved at times.

“The fact that I actually started to suit up and put a 70s number on should tell you something,” McElwain said with a laugh. “Believe me, I would have got my tail beat, but we had some guys that came out there. We kind of put a role call out there. We had I think a pizza delivery guy, a bartender and one heck of an engineering student that came out and helped us get through spring practice. I was really excited about that, and yet at the same time, that's the way it is.”

The offensive line doesn’t have a choice but to grow up quickly if the Gators are going to be able to consistently move the football. Florida will lean on multiple true freshmen on the line, and McElwain has stated many times during the spring and early summer that he’s excited for the linemen from the 2015 recruiting class to get to campus in the next few months.

Tyler Jordan enrolled earlier this week for Summer A and will be counted on to provide help at any of the interior offensive line positions, and other recruits that get to campus for Summer B will need to acclimate quickly.

They’ll be joining a group of offensive linemen that McElwain saw grow closer during spring practices. Even after Roderick Johnson’s career ended early, McElwain has seen a young group of offensive linemen rally around their inexperience. They know everyone views them as the big question mark on the team and want to answer the challenge.

“The guys that were there, they worked their tails off,” McElwain said. “They grew together. That's another spot that just through numbers, there's going to be an opportunity for some guys to come in and possibly get some playing time."

Despite the obvious limitations up front, McElwain said his staff wouldn’t use it as an excuse in the 2015 season. They came to Florida to win and plan to do that this fall.

“(We’re) not here to get a participation ribbon,” McElwain said. “Every week, that’s our responsibility is to try to put our players in the best possible position to go out and make plays and be successful. We’ve got some really good players here. It’s just we’re thin at some areas, and that’s pretty obvious and yet that’s the hand we were dealt. I look forward to trying to piece that thing together and yet there’s probably going to be a lot of new names on the roster as we’re moving forward. At the end of the day, these guys all came here to win a championship. That’s what we’re looking for.”

COORDINATORS FAMILIAR WITH THE LEAGUE: When McElwain starting looking at hiring a coaching staff, he wanted coaches familiar with the league they’d be coaching and the area they’d be recruiting. He found those qualities in offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.

“We wanted to, first and foremost, get them that obviously any experience in this league and knowing how difficult this league is, that’s a huge bonus,” McElwain said. “In the case of both coordinators, obviously their experience in the league is something that I think is really important. Also, hiring guys that kind of fit the footprint of where we need to do a really good job of recruiting and guys that had built in relationships in some of the areas that we need to get back into and make sure that we’re covering it.

“(We’re) really fortunate, really good guys and hard workers that really care about the kids. Don’t have separate agendas and aren’t independent contractors. We’re really excited about that. They’re a lot of fun to be around as well. That’s a good thing. This job is hard enough as it is.”

JACKSON NOT IN CLASS: McElwain said on Wednesday that J.C. Jackson is not enrolled at Florida as he continues to deal with armed robbery charges.

“He’s got a lot of things he’s dealing with right now,” McElwain said. “Right now, he’s dealing with those and trying to take care of certain things that he needs to. We’ll support him and help him do what he can, but right now he’s not enrolled in school and dealing with some things outside that are a lot bigger than the Florida Gators.”

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