GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Gators sophomore offensive lineman D.J. Humphries arrived at UF in January 2012 with the kind of accolades that made some wonder if he would start from day one.
The prep All-American was ranked the No. 1 overall offensive tackle in the country by Rivals.com and No. 3 by Scout.com.
What Florida coach Will Muschamp saw was an extremely talented player that needed to add some bulk to withstand those grizzly bears known as SEC defensive linemen.
More than a year later, Humphries’ size and status on the team have grown. Listed at 265 pounds his final season at Mallard Creek (N.C.) High, the 6-foot-6 Humphries is up to 280 pounds and listed atop the depth chart at left tackle.
Humphries played in 13 games last season – starting three in place of a Xavier Nixon – and showed why he was so highly recruited and why he needed to gain weight.
“At times he had a hard time anchoring against the bigger players, some of the bull rushes,’’ Muschamp said Tuesday. “That was always an issue when we played the bigger teams. He’s a guy now that is building that anchor, building that core.”
Muschamp is confident Humphries has all the tools that garnered him those accolades in the first place.
“He is extremely intelligent, first of all, extremely confident,’’ Muschamp said. “He is just a really good athlete. He can bend his lower body. He can set the edge against the speed rush. Football is important to him. He works hard at football.”
With Humphries developing at left tackle, left guard Max Garcia is getting back into the mix after sitting out last year. A transfer from Maryland, Garcia is atop the depth chart at left guard next to Humphries in what is an entirely new left side of the offensive line.
“Max Garcia has been a real good addition, a big, physical inside player,’’ Muschamp said. “I’m excited about those players.”
Garcia (6-4, 307) started 12 games at Maryland at left tackle in 2011.
Muschamp announced the Gators will be without freshman linebacker Alex Anzalone for the duration of spring camp. Anzalone (6-3, 220) is one of eight early enrollees who arrived in January. He underwent successful surgery to repair a labrum injury in his right shoulder on Monday.
Anzalone is expected to be a contributor in the fall with the Gators lacking depth at the position following the departure of starters Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins.
“He will be back for fall camp,’’ Muschamp said. “It’s usually about a four-month situation there. It was a freak drill. He just got hit on a tackling drill and he just got hit on it the wrong way. I’m disappointed for him but he is going to be a really good player. We’re going to be fine.”
Meanwhile, Muschamp said defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (hamstring) could be out until early next week, and that defensive back Cody Riggs (hamstring) is day-to-day.
The Gators have held four spring practices thus far and will practice Wednesday and Friday before scrimmaging on Saturday. Much of the work is getting young players reps and developing depth.
“Really working hard on fundamentals and technique and physicality,’’ Muschamp said. “Pleased with the contact speed so far. Four days in we’re not ready to make any proclamations.”
The receiving corps is one group being watched closely. With tight end Jordan Reed gone – he was the team’s leading receiver last year – the Gators need more production from a group that includes Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose, Solomon Patton, Latroy Pittman, Ralph Andrades and Loucheiz Purifoy.
Purifoy is working at receiver the first seven practices of spring and is learning the position.
“We’re trying to introduce the concepts to him,’’ Muschamp said. “We want to be able to expand what he can do at receiver. I don’t think it’s diminishing his skill at all as a corner. After the seventh practice he is going to come back to defense. He is going to have a role on our offense in the fall. That’s why I wanted to do this now.”
Muschamp said Dunbar, Debose and Pittman have all made strides. Patton is coming off a broken arm and is participation only in non-contact drills, while Andrades is trying to catch up to the others according to Muschamp.
One of the more intriguing freshmen in spring practice is running back Kelvin Taylor. Taylor is a contender to backup projected starter Matt Jones in the fall.
Taylor has shown off his physical skills in individual drills but remains a work in progress as he tries to learn the offense and pick up his production in practice.
“He’s a guy who can stick his foot in the ground, can get north and south,’’ Muschamp said. “He’s got some physicality. The game has got to slow down for him a little bit right now.”
QUOTE OF NOTE I
“He can anchor. He’s got good short-area quickness, he can get off blocks; he can disengage. He’s got good strength, I’m just really pleased.” – Muschamp on junior-college transfer Darious Cummings, a candidate to replace Omar Hunter at nose tackle
QUOTE OF NOTE II
“He needs to be in really, really good shape.’’ – Muschamp on Purifoy, who will play defense, offense and special teams in the fall
QUOTE OF NOTE III
“They need to understand there is a certain learning curve that they’ve got to go with. They’ve never been asked to do this before, as far as playing the game at a faster pace, playing the game at a faster tempo, but also learning the game at a faster pace and a faster tempo. I’m very pleased with all eight guys, their progress and where they are.” – Muschamp on the early enrollees
NOTES AND NUGGETS
Former linebacker Gideon Ajagbe, working behind starter Hunter Joyer at fullback, has made a good impression on Muschamp, especially as a blocker … Kyle Koehn is behind starter Jon Harrison at center and Tripp Thurman is third on the depth chart … Muschamp said starting right guard Jon Halapio, coming off offseason arthroscopic knee surgery, looked good in individual drills Monday. “He is not ready for full-11 work at this point.” … Muschamp said kickers Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips “need to kick a lot better” as they compete to replace Caleb Sturgis … Sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison, a candidate to start at middle linebacker, is taking on more of a leadership role. “[He] continues to improve as a communicator within the front seven and that’s going to be a key deal for him. He’s handling a lot of the directing of traffic. He had Jon and Jelani helping him last year. Now he’s got to be that guy.”