Last year, Florida went the JUCO route to land some big offensive linemen. This year they went strictly with high schoolers and the Gators scored big. The Gators landed three OLs from the Sunshine State and all three are exceptional recruits – Drew Miller, Jason Watkins and Jim Tartt.
Miller from Sarasota, will likely end up at guard and he's the most heralded of the bunch. He is former teammates and good friends with red-shirt freshman Steven Rissler. Miller is advanced for an OL at this stage. He's smart, moves very well and is very strong. Watkins is a giant offensive tackle prospect starting to come into his own. He's originally from LaPlace, Louisiana. Florida had to battle and fend off LSU and Oklahoma to get his signature on Signing Day. Watkins moves well and has great upside with his giant frame and enormous wing-span. Tartt is the most powerful of the group. He hails from Florida's panhandle and holds school records on the squat and clean and jerk. Tartt could see his first action at guard or center at UF. Like Watkins and Miller, he moves well and is versatile. Perhaps the top pass protector of the OL class is Phil Trautwein from Voorhees, New Jersey. This is an interesting story because Florida started to really recruit him late in the process and it just so happened that Trautwein grew up a huge Florida Gator fan. He has family in the area and family that attended UF.
What his coach said?
"In time, Drew will be an impact player at Florida," said Riverview OL coach Paulson. "He has great hips, explosiveness and a great first two steps. Much of that is from his Olympic weight training program. Drew is also a great technician. If everyone was like Drew Miller no one would ever have anything bad to say about college athletics."
Graded out at 90& with 70 pancake blocks as a junior. Miller bench presses 340 pounds, squats 475 and power cleans 275.
What his coach said?
"Jim has had a great career for us," said Head Coach J.D. Jones. "He's a four-year starter and I have only had three or four of those in thirty plus years of coaching. Tartt has exceptionally feet and strength and by far his best attributes as a player. Jim gets in blocking land fast and engages defender well."
Tartt bench presses 450 pounds and clean and jerks 325 (school record), squats 550 (school record). He graded out at 88% as a senior.
Has not allowed a sack in three seasons and averaged 10 pancake blocks per game as a senior.
What his coach said?
"Anytime you are that big you will stand out," said Lake Gibson Head Coach Keith Dameyer. "Jason is a man among boys. He has great feet and is a true leader. Jason really stepped up for us mentally and physically. He also has great athletic ability and is very agile."
Jason graded out in the upper 80s. He bench presses 325, squats 450 and power cleans 250.
You can go out and sign all the skilled guys you want but none of that makes a difference unless you can be dominant in the trenches. Last season UF was heavy with JUCO signees at the OL position and this season they went with four prep standouts. This is the route that helps build championship offenses. Miller and Tartt are physically further along than most high school offensive line prospects because of their extensive work in the weight room. They are both very powerful and aggressive. Watkins and Trautwein are just beginning to tap their enormous potential. Watkins is an exceptional athlete for a big man while Trautwein wrestles and wrestlers make great lineman because they learn the use of leverage.
Another asset of this OL group is versatility. Miller will likely be a guard but could also play tackle. Tartt could line up at center or guard. Watkins and Trautwein are athletic tackles with long arms and good feet. That's what you need to keep up with the speedy and quick pass rushers in the SEC.
Florida would have loved to sign one more OL but UF will stand pat with four. One potential OL could be defensive tackle Michael Brown. Brown will get his shot on the DL and if things don't work out at that position he could make a very good o-tackle. In fact, I personally think he has more upside as an offensive tackle than defensive tackle.
Overall, this is one of the best offensive line classes in the country. Time will tell if it proves to be championship worthy.