A number of Florida Gators players met with the media on Wednesday after their third day of fall practice. On Sunday, head coach Will Muschamp discussed Florida’s young offensive line and indicated that a few freshmen could be part of UF’s rotation in 2014.
With a full season under his belt, sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor is now more confident than ever. Taylor averaged 4.6 yards per carry (508 yards on 111 rushes) behind a lackluster offensive line during his freshman campaign and rumbled home for four touchdowns despite only being the primary ball-carrier in five contests.
“I’m just ready to go out there and just keep working hard every day, keep getting better and just trust my offensive linemen and everything else is going to fall into place,” he said on Wednesday. “I’m just ready to have a great year this year, and I can’t wait to get out there on the field. It all starts in practice. I’m just going to keep working hard and every day, just keep trying to get better and better at the little things.”
Taylor said now that he is more familiar with the tempo of practice, he is more equipped to allow what he learns on a weekly basis to translate over into the games. As such, he spent a portion of the summer learning how to be a better pass blocker from some of his teammates.
“I was doing different things with my offensive linemen, D.J. Humphries, we were doing little pass blocking drills to help make me a complete back,” he noted.
According to 247Sports.com’s Thomas Goldkamp, Taylor also spoke about sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and his supposed turnaround this offseason following an unproductive and disappointing freshman campaign.
“Sometimes you just have to mature a little bit more and that’s what he’s done,” Taylor explained. “He’s ready to put it in the past and he’s ready to look forward to the future. He’s going to have a tremendous year this year, and I’m just so excited for him.”
Taylor also noted that Robinson is “just a freakish athlete” who recently threw down an alley-oop while fooling around playing basketball in the gym recently. “He’s going to have a great year; he’s focused,” Taylor added.
REVAMPED OFFENSIVE LINE
One year after entering training camp without the entire right side of its offensive line, and months following a season in which the Gators lost their top three starting tackles to injury, Florida’s front five is back healthy, ready and raring to go.
“All we can do is just put  behind us and just build, build from there and show everybody we’re past that,” said redshirt senior right tackle Chaz Green, who did not suit up once last season due to injury. “As offensive linemen, that’s something you want to pride yourself on – keeping the quarterback clean. It’s something every year we talk about, and I would say this offseason we worked really hard as an offensive line to get in shape and make sure everybody is ready for this new offense.”
Head coach Will Muschamp on Sunday pointed to redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson as a lineman he is “really excited about.” A procedure on Johnson’s meniscus kept him from playing as a true freshman, but Muschamp has now been impressed with him in consecutive summers.
Florida also hopes to get some help from its other young, albeit inexperienced linemen. “David Sharpe is a young man that moves extremely well [when I’ve] watched him,” he said. “Andrew Mike is a guy we’ve been pleased with. Antonio Riles continues to make progress as an inside player. There’s enough combination of guys that I think are talented enough. How quickly we need to get them ready – even if that means reducing our package to make sure they’re able to go in there and execute.”
In an ideal world, Muschamp hopes the Gators can find a back-up center (behind redshirt senior Max Garcia, who is starting and playing the position for the first time in his career) as well as a swing guard and swing tackle who can be substituted as needed.
“We need to work on that combination first and then build from there,” he said. “I think there’s good enough players on our roster to have that.”
Sharpe certainly has the size and athleticism to be part of that rotation, but the converted basketball player will have to prove it on the gridiron.
“He’s a guy that’s 6-foot-6-and-a-half. He weighed 336 pounds when he reported, and he made 16 110[-yard dashes] in the prescribed time for offensive linemen. I’ve been other places and [haven’t seen anyone] come close to making that sort of time,” Muschamp said.
“I think his commitment level has been outstanding. He’s worked extremely hard in the weight room. He’s done everything we’ve asked from him in the weight room, in the classroom. I’ve been very pleased, to this point, with his buy-in factor of playing football. There’s no question, athletically, he’s extremely talented. He’s extremely smart, and he’s a guy we’re counting on to give us some help this year.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Senior OL Trenton Brown (6-foot-8) on being down to 355 pounds and feeling much better about his second and final season: “I’m in way better shape. I know more. I feel more comfortable with what we’re doing. I can really just play fast and not think at all.
» Brown on new Gators position coach Mike Summers: “I love Coach Summers. He harps on technique. First and foremost, he could have gone anywhere – coached in the NFL, any other college – but he came here to help us build something special.”
» Junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard on redshirt sophomore DL Alex McCalister: “I think he can help us. He’s one of them guys who’s obviously behind [Dante] Fowler, so he’ll probably come off the bench. But I think he can help us. He’s really athletic and he has gained his weight so he can hold his ground now. That’s really all he needed, was to be able to hold his ground because he came in little and got pushed around. But now with his weight and speed ability, he can help us.”