Florida’s O-line issues causing Mac some ‘sleepless nights’
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida coach Jim McElwain scanned the room of reporters, looking for anyone with size and some college eligibility remaining.
”You told me I was going to have a chance to get some O-lineman out of this,” McElwain told staff members.
His joke drew hearty chuckles. But the team’s depth heading into spring practice, especially along the offensive line, is hardly a laughing matter.
McElwain announced Tuesday that fifth-year senior Trip Thurman will miss spring practice with a chronic shoulder injury. That leaves the Gators with just seven healthy scholarship linemen.
”There have been a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure out how we’re going to practice,” McElwain said. ”We’ve got good players. I’m not saying anything about players. I’m just talking about structurally about how you practice to get the most out of it. It will be a little different.
”Based on those numbers, if you get one dinged or a couple dinged here and there, then that’s really going to change how we do things.”
Thurman started 10 games at guard in 2014 and was expected to move to center and anchor a revamped line that lost five of its top seven players after last season.
Trenton Brown, Chaz Green and Max Garcia graduated, and D.J. Humphries and Tyler Moore left school early in hopes of playing in the NFL.
Thurman and Rod Johnson were the building blocks left behind for McElwain. But it’s unclear whether Thurman even will be back in time for fall practice.
”His shoulder is such that if we can get an eight-month cycle off of it, then maybe we’re able to piece some things together with him next fall,” McElwain said. ”We’re very, very thin at offensive line, to the point that – we all knew this was coming, so it’s not a shock – but we’re going to have to adjust how we practice, the amount of reps we get and the different ways in which we do things from a practice structure.”
McElwain also said the Gators won’t be able to hold a traditional spring game because of the depth issues. The Orange & Blue game is scheduled for April 11.
”That’s the cards we were dealt,” McElwain said. ”It will be all right. The key is to making sure we get as much work as we can with as many people as we can to kind of establish who we are and what we’re all about and the direction we’re going to head with this football team as we move in from spring ball and into the summer sessions.”
Although Florida’s offensive line numbers are down for spring, the Gators have help on the way.
Florida added six offensive linemen, including top prospect Martez Ivey, on national signing day. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound Ivey was one of the most coveted tackles in the country and has been widely regarded as a guy who can start as a freshman.
Until the newcomers arrive in Gainesville, though, Florida will be short-handed. Nonetheless, McElwain found one positive in having just seven healthy linemen for spring.
”Those linemen are going to get some valuable reps, now,” he said. ”The value of repetitions and making sure they’re quality reps … that’s really where we’re going to kind of be as far as the structure of it.”
Notes: LB Antonio Morrison (knee), LB Jarrad Davis (knee) and DE Bryan Cox (hip) will miss spring practice. TE Jake McGee, who was granted a sixth of eligibility after breaking his leg in the 2014 season opener, is expected to participate in drill work. He remains non-contact and will not participate in any scrimmages.