Spring Outlook: Offensive Line

Spring football in college allows the chance to see new players on your favorite college team. The Florida Gators will be presenting a lot of new looks and faces to the college football world in 2010 and a few new ones will get some work on the offensive line this year. It is a seasoned bunch that returns this spring, but a few injuries will allow some less experienced to get some work.

The Florida Gators have the luxury of returning four starters on an offensive line that helped the offense finish in the top 10 nationally in rushing offense and number one overall in passing efficiency. That is the kind of balanced output you look for as a line and the Gators played well up front almost the entire season.

There will be a new wrinkle in the line up on the offensive line and that is the move of Michael Pouncey (SR. 6-4, 310) to take over at center for his brother Maurkice Pouncey who decided to declare for the NFL draft and is expected to be a first round pick. Michael got a lot of work behind the scenes last year as he was always the second team center if and when his brother ever went down for one reason or another. That happened in one game late in the season and Michael came in and did well. Something even newer will be snapping under center which the Gators are going to do quite a bit of this year with junior quarterback John Brantley taking the helm from Tim Tebow.

Sam Robey (SO. 6-4, 291) had a great spring last year and was a guy they thought they could count on then. A year later there should be no difference in that statement and if a move or an injury occurs somewhere Robey should be able to step in and play well at the position.

Kyle Koehne (FR. 6-6, 300) redshirted in 2010 and we will get our first look at him in action this spring. They were very happy with his progress as a freshman and now he should be more mature and able to contribute at least a little.

At guard, the Gators lose Michael Pouncey to the center position, so a new guard needs to make a name for himself. Two guys should be able to battle it out big time this year because starting left guard Carl Johnson (SR. 6-5, 340) will miss most or all of spring with a shoulder injury and surgery that he had in the offseason. The offense moved so much better when Johnson was in the lineup in the fall, so expect him to get his spot back when he gets healthy.

Mo Hurt (SR. 6-2, 305) will be one of the guys vying for that vacant guard spot. Hurt has a lot of experience and has started games in his past. Hurt has always been a favorite of the staff even if he doesn't have some of the overall physical attributes of some others, he just works really hard to be good. Hurt missed a lot of time in the last year and a half with a neck injury that seems to be fine now.

James Wilson (JR. 6-5, 329) is the other veteran that will be in the mix for that second starting guard spot. Wilson has all the tools, size, power, speed, agility...he just needs to stay healthy. His time away from the field has affected his play in that he isn't as consistent with running the play because of his time away from the practice and playing field. A healthy spring and fall might do wonders for Wilson and the plan he has to start in the fall.

Two beasts that redshirted last year are Jonotthan Harrison (FR. 6-3, 293) and Jon Halapio (FR. 6-4, 300). Harrison spent most of last spring playing tackle, but does have that extra spring to his credit where he got a lot of time learning the system that Florida uses. Halapio is a bowling ball with legs and just knocks people over. This is a great freshmen tandem that will be fun to watch in a year as third year sophomores wreaking havoc on the SEC.

The tackle position may have a little more depth than people know, but a couple of injuries will sideline a couple of tackles for all or most of the spring. Of course with that news comes the positive that other younger players will get a lot of work.

Up first is Marcus Gilbert (SR. 6-5, 320), and Gilbert won't practice early in the spring and it is still debatable if he will practice at all due to an elbow injury. He should be fine for the fall. Gilbert shined last season when moved to tackle after a shaky sophomore year at guard. He is at his natural right tackle position and is a very good one.

The other starter is back to in Xavier Nixon (SO. 6-6, 285), who had a freshman All-American year even if he only started a little less than half the season. Nixon has all the intangibles with size, strength, long arms, and quick feet. He will be much more needed this season as the blind side protector for a right handed quarterback. His improvement from last year to this one should be big time.

Probably a guy that everyone wants to see what they can really get out of him is Matt Patchan (SO. 6-6, 268). Unfortunately Patchan will miss the entire spring to heal from his quite extensive knee surgery. He is on track in the 270 range right now and they expect his weight to be around 290 or so by fall. Before the injury, they were expecting big things from Patchan, but they won't know until he gets better what they will get out of him now.

Overall it is a very young group that hasn't played a whole lot including Nick Alajajian (SO. 6-4, 295) and David Young (SO. 6-4, 303) that did get on the field a bit last year, but not much. Both showed promise last season when inserted, and both will get a ton of time with the first unit this spring due to injuries. It is still early in their careers, but if they want to get a leg up, this is a good time to do it.

The spring will also see a new face in Ian Silberman (FR. 6-6, 280). Silberman graduated high school early and has enrolled at Florida. He will compete right away and is what I would call a very athletic player for the position. I expect him to be much closer to 300 by the fall and he is an intelligent player that can only be helped by this spring. Do not be shocked if Silberman gets a lot of reps with the first unit this spring with the guys that are sitting out.

One more tackle will show up in the fall and Chaz Green (FR. 6-6, 290) was the last 2010 commitment to go public on signing day. Florida loves all their linemen to be bulldozers and that is what you get from Green even from the tackle position. He is a little raw and doesn't arrive until summer, so I would expect him to redshirt.

It should be fun spring on the offensive line and I expect a ton of movement from position to position. One thing Steve Addazio has always done with his line since he has been here is make sure to get his best five players on the field regardless of position. That will allow for a lot of these young players to get experience in a myriad of places along the line.

Fightin Gators Top Stories