Florida Gators Offensive Line – 2010 vs. 2011

One Eyed Willy and I finish up the Florida offense with the offensive line. To read past installments, click each position: quarterbacks, running backs and fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends.

2010: Marcus Gilbert – RSR, Maurice Hurt – RSR, Carl Johnson – RSR, Mike Pouncey – SR, Matt Patchan – JR, William Steinmann – JR, James Wilson – RJR, Nick Alajajian – SO, Xavier Nixon – SO, Sam Robey – RSO, David Young – RSO, Cole Gilliam – RFR, Chaz Green – FR, Jon Halapio – RFR, Jonotthan Harrison – RFR, Kyle Koehne – RFR, Ian Silberman – FR
Preseason Rating: B
Postseason Rating: D
I’ll start this one off by saying One Eyed Willy and I don’t dislike Florida. It’s quite the opposite. We love the Gators and are as diehard as you can get. However, we’re also very realistic fans who unfortunately can come across as negative from time to time. We joke that I’m the positive side to Willy’s negative, but we can both have our moments. Keep that in mind when reading these position comparisons. We aren’t the “rah rah” types that will go blindly into the future thinking Florida can do no wrong. We love the Gators and support them until the bitter end, but we also analyze practically anything and everything and sometimes that means pointing out areas which can be (or need to be) improved. We don’t apologize for these doses of realism; we’d like you to take a look at the whole picture when discussing your team and not just the fact that you’ve been a fan as long as you can remember. That’s a prelude to saying the 2010 Florida offensive line gets a D.

Let’s start by running down the starter numbers: Mike Pouncey – 13 games, Marcus Gilbert – 13, Maurice Hurt – 11, Carl Johnson – 11, Xavier Nixon – 8, Jon Halapio – 7, Jonotthan Harrison – 1, James Wilson – 1

Look at that and things don’t seem all that bad. Four players started 11 games or more and only eight total started any games. That would make you think the Gators had a relatively stable offensive line that stayed healthy for the most part. Well, see what had happened was…
First off, Matt Patchan didn’t play and Wilson only appeared in two games. The move to center by Pouncey was a disaster at times and only average at others. Hurt and Halapio were inconsistent and the line as a whole struggled to find balance. This is yet another position that can blame its performance on a number of things. From injuries to inconsistent play to schemes, nothing seemed to, for lack of a better term, click. While John Brantley wasn’t the quarterback we all hoped he’d be during his first year as the Gators’ starter, he was given very little time to even think in many situations. The offensive line didn’t give up some jaw dropping number of sacks – 27 total on the season (and four of those came in a game in which Florida beat Vanderbilt by 41 points) – but also didn’t provide a secure pocket for the quarterbacks to work out of.
It was a rough season for the line and one that hardly got better as it progressed. 2011 needs to be a turning point for the unit or the offense may struggle to get started early in games.
2011: William Steinmann – SR, James Wilson – RSR, Dan Wenger – RSR, Xavier Nixon – JR, Matt Patchan – RJR, Sam Robey – RJR, David Young – RJR, Nick Alajajian – RSO, Cole Gilliam – RSO, Jon Halapio – RSO, Jonotthan Harrison – RSO, Kyle Koehne – RSO, Ian Silberman – SO, Chaz Green – RFR, Tommy Jordan – FR, Trip Thurman – FR
Preseason Rating: C
I hate giving a unit a C. I really do. I debated this unit for quite some time. Should I give the 2010 version a D? Should I give the 2011 one the same grade? It would have been extremely easy to give 2011 a B instead of C, but I had to go with my gut on this one.
The 2011 offensive line has potential, but must stay healthy and consistent. Yes, they get a C, but if they finished 2010 with a D, lost the only players that started more than eight games, and added nothing more than a transfer and two freshmen that are very likely to redshirt, giving them another D would have been reasonable as well. However, because of that potential, they’re bumped a grade.
There are a few keys to the line and since we like to make lists around here, I’ll go ahead and make another one:
• The returning players started a total of 17 games in 2010. That isn’t a lot. Not a lot by any means. The unit has to get through its growing pains quickly. Quickly as in the first two games of the season.
• Patchan can be great. He’s a lineman with a mean streak. Unfortunately, he just can’t stay healthy. If Patchan can stay on the field for an entire season guess is there’s one spot we don’t have to worry about.
• This is the last hurrah for Wilson. This is it. He has one last chance to prove he’s the player many thought he could be. This is it. Put up time.
Chaz Green has been said to be an absolute warrior. We’ll see him on the field for the first time this season and we may see him a lot. He could steal a position and not let it go for a few years.
• IS THERE A CENTER?!? Harrison was moved to the position and Dan Wenger transferred in. Why? Because the position is wide open and the main reason is because Sam Robey hasn’t claimed it as his own. Two years ago we heard of the possibility of the Pounceys both playing guard because of this young lineman who was doing so well in practice that he could bounce a potential All-American from the position. Today, the Pounceys are gone and Robey still hasn’t been named the starter. This will be his fourth season with the team. He’s not in the same territory as Wilson, but he’s getting dangerously close.
The line plays an unbelievably important role in the offense and is the key to allowing plays to develop. In 2010, it didn’t come together as expected despite having four seniors across it. This season, the seniors on the roster are a question mark and that will make you lose some sleep. What Charlie Weis and Frank Verducci do with the line could be one of the most important things to follow during the offseason. It won’t take us very long to see how it all went and how it will all go. This is the definitive “keep your fingers crossed” unit.

Undrafted Gators Start To Sign Free Agent Deals

With the NFL back, all of those undrafted players are starting to receive phone calls and even offers from teams. The picture to the left is, of course, TBG favorite (we have a lot of those) Chas Henry. As of this piece being written, Henry had yet to be signed, but it is only a matter of time. The best punter to ever punt the ball in an organized game is sure to get a shot somewhere and even more sure to stick.
Among those picked up by teams during the first day of free agency were Duke Lemmens – Arizona Cardinals, Terron Sanders – Baltimore Ravens, and Emmanuel Moody – Buffalo Bills. Maybe Will Hill agreed to a deal with the Washington Redskins, maybe not.
There are still a number of former Florida players out there, including Henry, Carl Johnson, Lawrence Marsh, Carl Moore, and Justin Trattou. Odds are some of them will have already found a team by the time you read this.
(Photo: University of Florida)

Game Preview: Florida Gators @ LSU Tigers – 8:00

10 things for tonight’s Florida/LSU matchup…

1. Be prepared to be force fed concussion information all night. Think you heard a lot about Tim Tebow’s brain over the past two weeks, you ain’t seen nothing yet. There will be replays of the hit. Comparisons between his concussion and famous concussions of the past (Jim Leavitt started sounding like your great-grandfather when he yells after slipping on pickle juice and hitting his head on a kitchen counter…bet you didn’t know that). If Tebow doesn’t play, he’ll be shown no less than 1,000 times. If he does, 10,000. Start or not, John Brantley MCMXIV will get more TV time than LeGarrette Blount ringside at a prize fight. What concussion means (it has something to do with the effects on the mind Superman experiences when faced with kryptonite). And of course, if Timmy plays and doesn’t have the best game in the history of any college football player EVER, we’ll hear all about how he should be at home in his bunk bed snuggly under his Walker Texas Ranger sheets (Tebow sleeps on both the top and bottom bunks because he can).

2. Maybe Urban Meyer doesn’t give Emmanuel Moody as much time as a running back with over 10 yards per carry should get because he has him confused with this guy. If so, I get it. You can’t possibly carry a football with hooves. But if not, we’ll just assume the reason has something to do with the fact that Meyer can’t catch Jeffery Demps to tell him he’s not starting. In case you didn’t now, him fast.

3. Random Omarius Hines facts: Hines caught 23 touchdown passes as a high school junior and he likes Star Crunch Cosmic Snacks.

4. Deonte Thompson can catch the deep ball. Deonte Thompson will catch the deep ball. Deonte Thompson can say the deep ball. Deonte Thompson is the deep ball. Hamstring be damned. Deep ball.

5. LSU bruiser back Charles Scott rushed for more than 100 yards in four straight games before facing the lean, mean, orange and blue machine in 2008. Scott’s line: 12 carries, 35 yards, 2.9 per carry, 1 catch, 8 yards, headache, loss, disappointment. In 2009, Scott has done what he can to kill whatever draft potential he had. He has yet to have more than 95 yards in a single game and now faces the team that seems to know how to stop that train.

6. Apparently Tim Tebow has some sort of head injury. We’re not sure if it’s serious, but there’s a sick, twisted rumor out there he might not play. I blame the internet. This has to be some sort of elaborate web hoax, like, you know, global warming, the war in Iraq, or signs of intelligent life in Alabama.

7. Pouncey-Squared must take control of the offensive line. Keep Marcus Gilbert at least 10 years away from whoever quarterbacks at all times. Keep James Wilson on the field for the entire game (there’s no Matt Patchan to sub in; he caught a nasty case of the ACLs). Keep Carl Johnson knowing his job is that much more important if a right-handed QB is back there.

8. We like Ciron Black. Scratch that. We love Ciron Black. Ciron Black = good people. Tonight Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap must make Ciron Black their personal play toy. We’ll resume loving Ciron Black on Sunday morning.

9. Pray for a Brandon Spikes unsportsmanlike conduct-induced punt shank. If we see #51 booting the ball off the side of his foot as fans everywhere run for cover, it means Florida is up big and LSU’s chances of keeping alive that streak of home, night wins alive have gone the way of a Ron Zook contract extension.

10. What’s that? Tim Tebow is hurt?!? Gotta go…

The Long Snapper: September 8, 2009

Jermaine Cunningham should be back in the lineup for Florida after he “wasn’t ready to play” in the first game. I wasn’t ready to play either and clearly the kicking game suffered for it. You can also welcome back Lawrence Marsh, who should be mad as hell he let a little ankle keep him out of action. Super frosh Jelani Jenkins and Big Carl Johnson both suffered injuries against Charleston Southern, but are expected to play on Saturday. Dustin Doe continues to be a week-to-week decision.

Concerned about pass defense? Shoddy cornerback play got you down? Need the one man who can do the job? Janoris Jenkins is back. After serving a one game penalty for assisting law enforcement during taser testing drills, the freshman phenom returns against Troy. Beaten by receivers no more. #29 is back…as #1.

Brandon James, SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Week.

You all know about Joe Haden’s brothers Josh – a running back at Boston College – and Jordan – a high school defensive back committed to Florida, but there are two more. Jacob is 16 and Jonathan is in the eighth grade. If Josh ends up being the only one to not be a Gator, family dinners could get uncomfortable.

Scot Loeffler, quarterback coach.

Ah the Coaches Poll. USF’s Jim Leavitt dropped UNC from #12 to unranked on his ballot. All the Tar Heels did was beat The Citadel 40-6 in their first game of the season. Captain Crazy also said he would not put the Bulls in his next ballot. He held true to his word and didn’t rank USF, who he had at #18 in his preseason poll. I’ll agree with him on that one. Bulls fan or not, I’m not close to being ready to call them a top 25 team.

Jake Sims will hold his starting spot along the offensive line after a good performance in the opener against Wofford.

An interesting breakdown of why USF should be looking at a 7-5 season. And that’s WITH a win over Miami. Although I’d like to think 7-5 isn’t a possibility, it certain does make sense. I’ll keep my hopes up for 10-2. I have high hopes. Too high in most cases.

Former Gator Jarred Fayson had a decent debut for Illinois. He only rushed the ball one time for one yard, but he led all Fighting Illini receivers with four catches for 50 yards. He also returned a punt for four yards. Of course Illinois looked like the Illinois we came to love during Ron Zook’s first two years, not the Illinois of 2007 that everyone seems to expect to return for no good reason other than they have an athletic quarterback and a good receiver. It takes more than two. That’s all I’m saying. (And yes, I had the Illini winning this game. Goes to show you how much I know.)

Cincinnati, good? Rutgers, bad? You decide. The Rutgers defense took a page out of Two Teams Coming Together for a Common Purpose: The FSU and Miami Guide to Pass Coverages. Big East quarterbacks are eagerly awaiting their turn.

For those of you that missed it, the aforementioned Noles and Canes gave us their version of excitement. Either I’m going to go ahead and mark down Jacory Harris’ spot on the All-American roster or I’m going to say Mickey Andrews just may be past his prime. Let’s go with the latter. Harris was good. Very good. FSU’s secondary was bad. Very bad. Max Hall is one drooling Mormon at the moment.

Don’t worry. We’ll see Mitch Mustain being selected somewhere in the second half of an NFL Draft coming soon. As for seeing him even throw a pass in a USC game in 2009, well, don’t count your chickens. In a 56-3 blowout season opening win, the Trojan’s backup quarterback – Aaron Corp – only thru four passes. Mustain is one spot further down the depth chart.

First Three Quarters Jevan Snead won’t make it out of the SEC alive. Q1-3 Snead went 8-of-17 for 102 yards and two interceptions. Fourth Quarter Jevan Snead went 4-of-5 for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Ole Miss likes Q4 Snead. The rest of the SEC West cheers for Q1-3 Snead. I just like saying Snead.

And finally, North Alabama’s roster reads like a high school all-star game: Harrison Beck, Jamal Edwards, Courtney Harris, Preston Parker, Brandon Paul, Richie Rich, Marcus Sims. Doom will find the Lions though. This guy is on the coaching staff.

Florida Gators 62 – Charleston Southern Buccaneers 3

Speed. One thing that will continue to make Florida the best team in the nation. Speed.

The Gators had 373 rushing yards on 33 carries in the 62-3 win over Charleston Southern. Yes, it was Charleston Southern. Yes, 11.2 yards per carry is amazing regardless. Let any Gator carry the ball and there’s a good chance Florida will get a first down. That just doesn’t happen. Well, unless you have unmatchable amounts of speed.

Chris Rainey touched the ball once. 76 yards and a blue blur later, touchdown. I’m going to guess he leads the nation in yards per carry. Jeffery Demps led the team with 89 yards on five carries and had runs of 41 and 23 (for a score). Emmanuel Moody led the Gators with 9 carries, but still managed 9.6 per (and he’s supposed to be the power back). We got a glimpse of what true freshman Mike Gillislee can do: six carries for 41 yards and a score. And even John Brantley got into the action. The 2010 starting quarterback averaged 6.7 yards per carry. It was actually Tim Tebow that didn’t star on the ground. Tebow ran the ball twice for one yard. Oh yeah, but he scored and his 44 career rushing touchdowns are now good for a tie for fourth all-time in the SEC with Dalton Hilliard.

Just in case they didn’t get enough love, the receivers have that speed thing too. Deonte Thompson blew by the Charleston Southern defense on a deep ball that he…ahem…dropped. Have to make that catch if you want to be a star. And Riley Cooper used so much speed he actually got sick. But five catches and 105 yards make him the team leader in both categories at the moment, so I’m sure he’s feeling okay in the end.

To realize speed’s full potential, you need block too. And the Gators have block. Lots of block. Matt Patchan looked every bit the part of an SEC tackle after spending the 2008 season on defense. Carl Johnson has proven he can play anywhere across the line, but an injury forced Big Carl out of the game in the second quarter. And we got a taste of true freshman Nick Alajajian, Jon Halapio, and Xavier Nixon.

Looking at the box score, it may seem like the Gator defense wasn’t what it should’ve been. They only surrendered three points, but did allow the Buccaneers to pile up 323 yards of offense. However, that’s mostly due to the fact that Florida stuck with a basic defensive package. Definitely no point in opening up the entire playbook in a season opener against Charleston Southern. We’ll see the aggressive Gator D soon enough.

Florida’s leading tackler looked like he had been doing this for years already. He’s one of the players that just looks like he belongs in a football uniform. He has the perfect size for his position and forms tackles like he belongs in an instructional video. Ladies and gentlemen, true freshman Jon Bostic. Drool accordingly. All-SEC seasons to come.

For those of you disappointed in the kicking game. Well, you should be. Partially at least. A missed extra point Jonathan Phillips? A missed extra point??? There is little that frustrates me more than a missed extra point. But as for Caleb Sturgis’ kickoff that went out of bounds, as maddening as that is, it’s designed…somewhat. Last season, the coaching staff mentioned they try to get him to kick to the corners to limit return yardage and if from time to time he kicks it out of bounds, it’s okay.

In his senior year, Brandon James is just as dangerous as he always has been. James returned a kickoff 85-yards for a touchdown. A Gator hadn’t done that in 10 seasons. Again, speed. With some block, all legal of course. There were no flags and this time for James, the return counted.

Good start to the season for Florida. It’s hard to get a good read on the defense due to limited packages being shown, but regardless, let’s hope the corners step up before conference play. I can’t say I was impressed with the way they played, but it’s still early. The offense, though, was what you expect from the Gators. Block. Speed. Score.

A Look at Depth Charts: The Florida Offense

As we get anticipatorily (yup, it’s a real word) close to the 2009 season, it’s time to take a look at depth charts as developed by, well, me. They could end up coming true, or I could end up way off. Whatever the case, it’s fun to speculate and sometimes almost too easy. Debate if you must. At some spots, there are players that can be written in stone. In others, it’s anyone’s guess.

Players that could assume a starting role sometime during the season are in italics.

Florida’s Offense

Quarterback – Tim Tebow (SR)
Running Back – Jeffery Demps (SO), Chris Rainey (RSO)
Wide Receiver – Riley Cooper (SR), Andre Debose (FR)
Wide Receiver – David Nelson (SR), Carl Moore (SR)
Wide Receiver – Deonte Thompson (RSO)
Tight End – Aaron Hernandez (JR)
Left Tackle – Carl Johnson (RJR), Matt Patchan (SO)
Left Guard – James Wilson (RSO), Maurkice Pouncey (JR)
Center – Maurkice Pouncey (JR), Sam Robey (RFR)
Right Guard – Mike Pouncey (JR)
Right Tackle – Marcus Gilbert (RJR)

A few items of note when it comes to the offense…

I assumed that more often than not, the Gators will line up with three receivers and one player in the backfield. Call the player in the backfield or the slot whatever you like, but I’ll default to Demps getting that role with Debose earning more time in it as the season progresses. However, we can’t forget about Rainey’s contributions to the offense. Whether lined up in the backfield or motioning out, #3 will get plenty of chances to shine.

I’d also like to point out that while I want Debose to be a star as much as the next fan, I don’t expect him to be Percy Harvin right away. Or maybe ever. I do believe Debose will be a great player, but I also believe the offense will be more dangerous with multiple players filling Harvin’s role. And just remember, Debose was a very high-rated recruit, but Harvin was a truly rare talent.

As for the offensive line, I like all of the Robey talk and hope he has the talent the make a name for himself as a Gator. But why rush him? Unless someone like Wilson struggles and Florida needs improved play at the left guard position, I don’t see the point in moving Maurkice out of the center spot just yet. Let Robey get some time late in games first, before throwing him into the fire.

I also believe Patchan has the talent to play in the SEC. I’m just not sure if he has the size. According to the Florida roster, Big Carl outweighs him by 82 pounds. 82 POUNDS!!! Patchan weighs in at 260, which is way too light for a tackle in this conference. Add that to the fact that Johnson has played in 25 games on the offensive line compared to Patchan’s zero, and I can’t see Patchan beating him out right away.

TBG’s MVPs: Florida Offensive Linemen

Next up, we get to the Florida big men. And of course, the twins.

Maurkice Pouncey – 11 pts. (3 first-place votes)

This was definitely an interesting one. There were two first-place votes for Maurkice. One for both him and Mike. And one that had the twins first and second and told me to pick which one (I flipped a coin…Mike won). So after scratching my head for several minutes, I finally got out the calculator and determined Maurkice is the winner.

What sayeth you One-Eyed William? “Ok, we all know that it was a toss-up between Pouncey #1 and Pouncey #2, but for me the center is the most important position on the OL. The center is truly the QB of the OL and I was impressed with how quickly Maurkice learned the position and led the offensive group. Plus Maurkice had one tackle recorded (against Vanderbilt) on the season and his brother had none. What a slacker that Mike is!”

2. Mike Pouncey – 10 (2)
3. Phil Trautwein/Jason Watkins – 2
4. Carl Johnson/Jim Tartt – 1

As for 2009…

Maurkice Pouncey – 12 (4)

Double your pleasure. Double your fun.

This time around, the coin clip went Maurkice’s way. We believe he will take home back-to-back TBG MVPs as the leader on the offensive line. But with truths from KP like this, the entire line should be a good one: “I think the center of the line is going to be the best we’ve seen in a long while.”

2. Mike Pouncey – 9 (1)
3. Carl Johnson – 4
4. Matt Patchan/Sam Robey – 1

Tomorrow, we head to the defensive side of the ball.

Want to join the panel? Email me at thebullgator@live.com.

The Long Snapper: John Brown, Carl Johnson, Bobby Bowden, Alabama, and Orson Charles

The saga of John Brown has apparently come to an end. The defensive tackle – a member of the Lakeland class of 2007 – will transfer from Florida without ever seeing the field (well, I’m sure he saw it, he just didn’t step foot on it with the intent to play). Brown had plenty of promise, but a poor academic history. When all seemed in order, he broke his wrist and couldn’t contribute during the 2008 season. No word on where Brown may end up. (H/T: KP)

Charges have been dropped against Florida offensive lineman Carl Johnson. Johnson was originally charged with violating a restraining order against an ex-girlfriend, but it has been ruled he didn’t do so willfully – meaning he got on the bus and she just happened to be on it already. The ex-girlfriend has also decided not to pursue charges against Johnson based on her allegations of date rape. Hmmm. (And another H/T to KP.)

FSU’s troubles could lead to football victories being taken away. That always seemed weird to me considering the games were already played. In reality, who cares if something that already happened is deemed to not have actually happened? Why not do something like ban the Seminoles for a bowl game or two in the future? That would actually be a punishment. But anyway, Bobby Bowden – who currently sits second on the all-time win list – could find himself further than the one victory he is behind Penn State legend Joe Paterno. And thus, I have more questions. What about the games Bowden won as the head coach at Howard? Why do those count? And if they do and we’re talking all-time wins and not just Division 1-A wins, then aren’t they both still chasing John Gagliardi? Whatever the case, with the careers of both men winding down, it appears Paterno will go out on top.

Alabama is in some trouble over textbooks. What’s wrong with that sentence? That’s right. Two words that should never go together: Alabama and textbooks. ZING!

Orson Charles has finally chosen his collegiate destination and it’s Georgia. I never like seeing quality athletes leave the state, but it hits close to home when those players are…well…close to my home. Charles follows one-time TBG man-crush Aaron Murray to Athens. Although not happy where Charles ended up, any place is better than Tennessee.

The Long Snapper: Brandon James, Carl Johnson, Mike Leach, Bryce Brown, and Chris Smelley

Running Flintstone-esque around football fields is rough on one’s tires. So rough in fact, sometimes a fix up is needed. Florida’s pint-sized speedster Brandon James will be hobbled for a few weeks while he recovers from surgery on his right foot. Broken bones be damned, James will be ready come fall to claim every return record known to man.

Big Carl’s House of Date Rape?!? The story of Florida offensive lineman Carl Johnson continues to get weirder and weirder. Allegedly, Big Carl said some freaky things. We don’t know how true said statements are just yet, but one thing is for certain: Johnson was arrested for violating a restraining order. This has the potential to be something that won’t end well at all.

Deadline. Gone. Mike Leach didn’t sign the latest contract extension that was presented to him and it may be the last he gets from Texas Tech. With two years left on his current contract, Leach seems happy with seeing it out and figuring out the rest when the time comes.

The school Bryce Brown has been “committed” to has had enough. When his letter of intent expires on Wednesday, Miami may not renew it. Coaches can’t discuss recruits until their letters are signed, so Randy Shannon has no comment, but it appears as if his patience may be worn thin. What’s the over/under on the number of years Brown will spend at whatever school he ends up choosing anyway? 1.5? 2?

A stink that could only come from Tuscaloosa. Former South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley transferred to Alabama to join the Crimson Tide baseball team. Now Smelley appears interested in joining Bama on the football field as well.