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.

Morning Reading: Time to Start Talking About the Class of 2011

Some college football fans don’t get themselves involved in the world of recruiting. At times, I don’t blame them. I spend a lot of time following it and it seems like more often than not, it brings disappointment. I know that’s weird to say considering the recent classes that Florida has brought in, but following the decommits and the players that look like locks that end up elsewhere becomes taxing. But to me, that’s part of the joy in it. While you’re school is never going to end up with everyone you want – or even half of them for that matter – there’s always a surprise or two that ends up in your team’s colors. Recruiting is not for the weak of heart because there are plenty of ups and downs, but it definitely adds an interesting dimension to following college football.

Tuesday was the first day members of the class of 2011 (I just said that out loud and it made me feel old) could receive written scholarship offers from schools. Of course many have verbal offers already in place, but Tuesday is when things became official.

ESPN.com has highlighted a few of the players that look like they could be the gems of the 2011 class. Among them is quarterback Christian Lemay (Butler/Matthews, NC) who should have written offers from most of the major schools coming very soon. He already has received over a dozen verbals. Powerhouse Saint Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, FL) has receiver Phillip Dorsett who is heavily considering the Gators. Defensive end Jadaveon Clowney (South Pointe/Rock Hill, SC) could follow the lead of fellow South Carolina high school star Carlos Dunlap and end up in the orange and blue, although he will have offers from every major program. Plant (Tampa, FL) linebacker James Wilder, Jr. (yes, the son of that James Wilder) could be the state of Florida’s top prospect. It could come down to Florida and USC for his services. And defensive back Nick Waisome hails from South Lake (Groveland, FL), the alma mater of current Gators Jeffery Demps and Jonotthan Harrison.

It’s still very early (the 2010 class doesn’t sign for another five months), but there’s no harm in getting excited about the future.