The Big Men Manning the Trenches
Next up on our preseason breakdown of the Gator football team are the men who make the entire offense go.
Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers get all the hype, but it’s the men blocking for them who determine how far the running backs will go and how long the quarterback has to throw.
Let’s take a look at who’ll be on the line and blocking for the Gators this season.
The fullback is an overlooked position in football today. The fullback’s primary role is to block for the running back, and possibly get a few touches himself.
The Gators will likely pencil popular quarterback-turned-running-back-turned-fullback Trey Burton in at starting fullback.
The junior will be starting his third season at Florida. He made a name for himself his freshman year. He burst onto the scene in the fourth game of the season, against Kentucky in the Swamp, where he scored six touchdowns in front of 90,000 people.
During his first year with the Gators he ran the ball 75 times for 349 yards, caught the ball 32 times for 210 yards and made some appearances at quarterback in Urban Meyer’s failed triple-quarterback system.
This season, he will be in the backfield and have a season similar to his 2011 campaign, where he had 37 touches on the ground and 19 receptions.
Behind Burton on the depth chart will be sophomore Hunter Joyer. In Joyer’s freshman season, he had 18 touches and ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
At 5-foot-10 and 244 pounds, Joyer will be expected to punch the ball into the endzone in goal-line situations.
The Gators suffered a loss in the offseason when sophomore A.C. Leonard decided to leave the program after he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery in February.
After meeting with coach Will Muschamp, the two decided it would be best if Leonard transferred. He has since found a new home at Tennessee State.
Leonard was slated to be the second-string tight end behind redshirt junior Jordan Reed.
Reed was a popular target for Gator quarterbacks last season, catching 28 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns.
At 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, Reed is a big target for whomever will be lining up at quarterback this year. And with the Gator wide receiving corps being inexperienced at best, look for the offensive coordinator Brent Pease to look to Reed to carry the load.
After Reed is a black hole of inexperience.
One backup tight end is Trey Burton’s brother, Clay Burton, a sophomore who has played one game at tight end for Florida.
Two others who might see time are incoming freshmen Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson. Both were rated four-star prospects by Rivals.com.
Rivals ranked Taylor as the number one tight end in the 2012 class, and 54th overall. Thompson ranked a little lower, coming in as the sixth best tight end in the class.
The offensive line is arguably the most important part of a football team. It’s also the least glamorous.
The Gators’ offensive line in 2011 was about as effective as a famous Led Zeppelin song -- “When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.” John Brantley was “mama”, of course.
The levee broke more times than former offensive line coach Frank Verducci would have liked, and after a year at Florida, Verducci left for Kansas to be with his boss, Charlie Weis.
The new offensive line coach, Tim Davis, takes over a motley crew of veterans and freshman, all competing for time.
Redshirt juniors Jonotthan Harrison and Jon Halapio are solid locks for spots on the line. Both started every game for the Gators last season.
Other returning players who will be competing for time are redshirt sophomore Chaz Green, redshirt juniors Kyle Koehne and Matt Patchan and redshirt senior Sam Robey.
However, the most talented men on the line might be incoming freshmen D.J. Humphries and Jessamen Dunker.
Humphries comes to Florida as the No. 1 offensive tackle prospect and the No. 2 prospect in the 2012 class, according to Rivals.
Humphries is possibly the biggest get of the class for the Gators and was one of four recruits linebacker coach D.J. Durkin was able to snag from North Carolina.
Dunker is a big 6-foot-6 315-pound guard from a little closer to home. Dunker, hailing from Boynton Beach, Fla. (home of yours truly), was the No. 5 offensive guard in 2012.
Humphries and Dunker will compete for starting spots on the line in fall practice, which isn’t out of reach for either of them. If they don’t impress the coaching staff enough, they could be redshirted in order to give them time to learn the playbook and prepare themselves for SEC competition.
Gator Positional Breakdown: Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver