- Jeff Barlis, College Football
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Editor’s note: With Florida's spring practice now in the rear-view mirror, we’ll clean out the notebook this week and touch on a few remaining topics.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Want some hard evidence for optimism inside of the Florida football offices? Look no further than two upperclassmen starting at offensive tackle.
"That’s a big deal, man," Humphries said during spring practice. "Me and Chaz being back, that’s good. When we’re on the field together, it works well. We’ve been flowing well this spring. We’re going to try and keep it up. If both of us stay healthy, we can make some things happen."
Florida coach Will Muschamp puts a heavy emphasis on winning the line of scrimmage. That was harder than ever in 2013 when the Gators played the entire season without Green, the right tackle who suffered a torn labrum in preseason camp. Humphries, the left tackle, missed the final five games of last season with a sprained MCL.
Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who lines up against both tackles in practice, saw the impact of their losses.
"Chaz was having a great summer camp [in 2013]," Fowler said. "He just had that setback, and it was like a freakish accident. D.J. is kind of like the anchorman. He leads everybody, so when he went down, things kind of went down the drain from there."
Muschamp said both players came back with more determination than ever.
"[Chaz] has picked it up to another level as far as his commitment, his work ethic," the coach said. "I mean, the guy has been a great example for our entire offseason program on how he’s handled himself and how he’s worked.
"I think when something’s taken away from you, you realize how important it is to you. Not that he didn’t work hard before -- he’s always worked hard, he’s always had a great work ethic -- but even more so this time."
Muschamp said Humphries has finally gotten his weight where it needed to be. Since January, he has consistently weighed more than 290 pounds -- the first time that has happened since he arrived at Florida.
Once practice began, the two were eager to return to action. Green, a senior, and Humphries, a junior, spent much of their time butting heads with Fowler, a junior who is the team's best pass rusher.
"Me, D.J. and Chaz, we really got each other better," Fowler said. "We went at it. We just competed this whole spring. I feel like I’m a better player, and I can feel it because of them helping me."
As Florida installed its new no-huddle spread offense, the two tackles saw just how well they fit the zone-blocking scheme, which is predicated on short drops by the quarterback.
"It's kind of made for athletic tackles," Humphries said. "So it's kind of working out for me and Chaz. We're able to get on the edge a little, get on the outside shoulder of our defenders. I would say it's been kind of an easy adjustment."
The effectiveness of the tackles has had a domino effect on the rest of the line.
Junior Tyler Moore, who played much of last season at right tackle in Green's absence, has found a home at guard. Senior Trenton Brown started the spring competing with Green at right tackle before moving to right guard.
Moore and Brown have cited Green as one of Florida's most important leaders.
"He's a really hard worker, a really talented guy," Moore said. "We've just got to keep him healthy."
Staying on the field is the key for Florida's entire offensive line, which was battered by injuries last season.
Having healthy bookends in 2014 is a tantalizing thought for the Gators. There's even a chance that Green and Humphries could anchor the line for two more seasons, as Green could still get a medical hardship waiver for missing the 2013 season.
"I haven't discussed that," he said. "I think I'm going to see how this year goes, and then if I need it I'll use it. I'm just trying to get back out there, have a great year, get back to playing at the level that I know I can play at, because it's been so long that I've been hurt.
"Help the team out with my play, that's what I'm trying to do."
With all of his focus on playing this fall, Green knows he'll be overcome with emotion when he finally gets back onto Florida Field on Aug. 30.
"I'm too excited," he said. "I feel like it's been so long since I've been out there. So I'm just excited to get out there, just get back to doing what I love doing."
3dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough