Look at Depth - OL

With the 2008 version of the Florida Gators getting ready to hit the practice field in less than a week, the anticipation of a title run couldn't be more fervent. With that said, here's a position-by-position look at the Gators as they prepare for Urban Meyer's fourth season in Gainesville, beginning with the guys in the trenches.

The offensive line might be the most overlooked unit on the field heading into fall camp, and Urban Meyer confirmed that statement last week during SEC Media Days. With so much talent and firepower on the offensive side, it's easy to forget about the most important cog in the Gators' scoring machine. Not only is the offensive line given the responsibility of protecting the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, but they are also the foundation of Florida's ground game, which could be the best in Meyer's tenure.

LT – Phil Trautwein -- The redshirt senior watched last season from the sidelines with a stress fracture in his foot and he's ready to make a run at his second SEC title. Trautwein brings experience and maturity to a line that also starts two true sophomores, and his leadership should ensure that cooler heads prevail if the game's on the line.

LG – Jim Tartt -- Another redshirt senior on the offensive line adds to the leadership and experience brought in with Trautwein. Tartt has been in and out of the starting lineup for the past two seasons dealing with a recurring shoulder injury, but if the shoulder holds up, he'll play a big role in the line's success throughout the season.

C – Maurkice Pouncey -- Not since Mike Degory's senior season in 2005 have the Gators returned their starting center. They have a chance at breaking that trend as true sophomore Maurkice Pouncey takes over the center duties. Pouncey slid into the right guard position last year and showed that he can get the job done highlighted by his performance against LSU when he spent most of his time battling Glenn Dorsey. Pouncey is mature for his age and offensive line coach Steve Addazio calls him one of the best young linemen he has seen throughout his career.

RG - Michael Pouncey -- Lining up beside his twin brother, true sophomore Michael Pouncey makes the switch back to offense after spending the last half of last season at nose guard. Like his brother, Pouncey possesses the raw talent to be a great offensive guard and brings a certain element of playfulness to the line. Always with smiles on their faces, the Pouncey twins should ensure a solid O-line for the Gators over the next few years.

RT – Jason Watkins -- The redshirt senior will get the nod after starting last season at left tackle in place of Trautwein. With a year under his belt, Watkins is a leader on and off the field. In his first season as a starter, he graded out as a champion in six different games, including grading higher than 80 percent against Kentucky and Vanderbilt. He grew more consistent as the season went along and adds to the Gators' mixture of youth and experience across the line.

Others to watch…

In his first season, Meyer was lucky to find five healthy offensive linemen. For really the first time, he has a second group with several members that could step right into starting roles if need be.

  • Marcus Gilbert - The redshirt sophomore has had his name in the mix for a starting role and will continue to challenge Watkins for one. He's versatile enough that he can fill in any spot should he be needed.

  • Maurice Hurt - Another redshirt sophomore who has seen his development slowed because of nagging injuries. Hurt can also provide some security for the Gators in a back-up role.

  • Carl Johnson - Yet another redshirt sophomore who can provide depth for the Gators at tackle, center or guard.

    Total scholarship players – 14 (Jim Barrie, Corey Hobbs, Byran Jones, Sam Robey, David Young, James Wilson)

    Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


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