Commentary

Lack of competition hurts both lines

Muschamp: 'We don't have enough numbers. It's real simple.'

Originally Published: November 16, 2011
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers score points and fill stat sheets, but it's offensive and defensive linemen who fill the win column.

That is Florida coach Will Muschamp's formula for success in the Southeastern Conference. It's a line of scrimmage league, he has said over and over and over again. Be good at those spots, and the rest falls into place.

If you're not good there, well, then you've got the 2011 Florida Gators.

Florida has little depth, and the Gators' frontline players are struggling to pass-block, create space in the running game against the SEC's better teams, hold their gaps against the run, mount much of a pass rush and -- perhaps most baffling -- keep from jumping offsides.

"Not very good [on the line of scrimmage]," Muschamp said. "Real simple. We're not deep enough. We don't have enough numbers. It's real simple. Just look at the roster.

"We've got good talent. We don't have enough numbers."

His claim about the talent level might be debatable in some spots, but he's absolutely right about the numbers. The Gators are short on both sides of the ball, especially on the offensive line.

Florida has 13 scholarship offensive linemen, but that includes true freshmen Tommy Jordan and Trip Thurman, who are injured and redshirting, and another, tackle Chaz Green, who has missed the last three games with an ankle injury. One more, guard/center Dan Wenger likely won't play against Furman on Saturday.

Of the nine remaining linemen who are available to play against the Paladins, guard Ian Silberman hasn't played since the second game, guard James Wilson has fought through four knee surgeries and two broken feet in his career, and center Jonotthan Harrison was recently benched because he was having trouble with shotgun snaps. Tackles Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan have struggled against the SEC's better teams.

Florida isn't much better numbers-wise on the defensive line. The Gators have just four defensive tackles, including Dominique Easley, who can't stop jumping offsides.

Of the six scholarship defensive ends, Lynden Trail hasn't played this season and Tevin Westbrook hasn't played since the Kentucky game.

The four remaining ends -- Shariff Floyd, William Green, Kedric Johnson and Earl Okine -- have just one sack. Johnson got it against Kentucky.

The lack of numbers on the lines keeps the Gators from practicing effectively and limits the amount of times the starters can go against each other in individual or team drills because UF can't afford to get anyone else injured.

"We haven't done as much [ones vs. ones] this year because of the numbers on both sides of the ball," defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. "In prior years we used to always go against the offensive line, whether it's one-on-one or board drills.

"Going against the ones [first-team offense or defense] always gives you a better look at what the other team is running. Going against the ones is better because they give a better look and there's more competition."

Having more depth also allows for more competition among the players, too. Starters have to keep playing at a high level or they'll lose their job. It's easy to get a little complacent if there's no fear of losing playing time.

"That competition where you're looking over the shoulder a little bit more is something that all clubs are striving to get," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said.

In order to get it, the Gators are going to have to restock with top-notch recruits. The Gators have five verbal commitments from offensive and defensive linemen, including five-star offensive tackle D.J. Humphries of Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte (N.C.) and four-star defensive tackle Quinteze Williams of Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek High School.

Offensive linemen have a harder time playing as freshmen than defensive linemen, so it might take several classes before the numbers and talent are at the level Muschamp wants and the Gators are able to compete for an SEC title.

"Not going to take long," Muschamp said. "We're going to be fine. We'll recruit well up front. I'm very excited about where we are from that standpoint."

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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