Notes: Narrowing down Gators’ offensive line

With limited experienced parts on the offensive line, Jim McElwain and the offensive staff have begun the process of finding their 8-10 linemen they trust during the fall.

There still aren’t many clear answers. The Florida coach said after Friday’s scrimmage that he would need to watch the film and see how each player looked, but they have also begun the process of cross-training multiple linemen so they can get their best five offensive linemen on the field if needed.

While they search for the linemen that fit the best in the team’s trusted lineman, McElwain mentioned David Sharpe and raved about the sophomore’s progress.

"Obviously Sharpe is a guy that's in there,” Jim McElwain said. “He's the one guy that kind of stands out a little bit and he's done a really good job adapting to the right side. We've been playing him both at swing and some so I think we feel very comfortable that he's a guy that can play right or left. I feel real good about that.”

McElwain added that Antonio Riles has played both guards and Mason Halter is the team’s “change-up guy” who can play both tackle and guard spots, even though he played only left tackle at Fordham.

“I've been really happy with how he's adapted to the different spots,” McElwain said.

Trip Thurman can play center or guard, spending most of his time at left guard. The continued focus is on improving the communication between a group without many experienced players.

“Right now, it's about the communication pattern between the two sides to see which two guys kind of work best together,” McElwain said.

LEWIS TURNING HEADS: Jake McGee will start at tight end and likely lead the group in receptions as long as he’s healthy, but C’yontai Lewis is proving he can have a role in the passing game. Lewis redshirted last year while DeAndre Goolsby was the only first-year tight end to play. Both have shown flashes during the open portions of fall camp.

The emergence of Lewis means the Gators have yet another body at tight end that should see the field this fall.

“We’ve got some guys that are really pushing each other,” McElwain said. “Goolsby is doing a good job and yet because of C’yontai’s emergence, obviously I think Jake is going to be a guy that is going to help us a ton. Moral (Stephens) has been doing a great job, too.”

McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier have always featured their tight ends, but the added depth this year could allow them to create some matchup issues for opposing defenses.

“There’s some guys at that position and what that does is allows us some flexibility in some personnel groups,” McElwain said. “We’re putting in a lot of formational things right now that maybe don’t look conventional and doing it because of the depth of that position.”

MOVING ROBINSON AROUND: When the new Florida staff arrived in Gainesville, they challenged Demarcus Robinson to build a strong knowledge of the offense so that they could get him involved in multiple ways. They wanted the junior to learn multiple receiver positions so the defense wouldn’t be able to predict where he would be this fall. Sometimes Robinson will line up outside, other times he’ll line up inside in the slot.

“We’ve asked him to really push his learning curve up and be able to move around the field a little bit,” McElwain said. “He’s just in the A spot or maybe somebody could try to take it away all the time or know where he’s at. As we kind of keep building this, that’s something we’re trying to do.”

REWARDING THE WALK-ONS: This is the time of year when news breaks from fall camps across the country about walk-ons receiving scholarships. McElwain said they haven’t gotten to that point yet but he does expect some of the walk-ons to receive scholarships before the start of the season.

“There’s a lot of guys deserving,” McElwain said. “(There will) definitely be some guys rewarded and really proud of how they’ve handled it. As we all know, in whatever business we’re in or organization we’re in, we’re only as strong as how everybody performs. Those guys have done a really good job and there are some deserving guys there.”

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