Florida Gators: Roderick Johnson

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Spring has sprung in the state of Florida, which means a much-needed football fix is almost here.

We're getting you ready for the Gators' spring practice with a look at five key position battles to watch when practice gets started on March 19.

Our weeklong series moves to the offensive line, a group of players who are critically important to Florida's plans for a rebirth on that side of the ball.

[+] EnlargeDJ Humphries
AP Photo/John RaouxD.J. Humphries is back and healthy for the Gators.
Returning starters: Left tackle D.J. Humphries, who will be a junior this fall, started six games in 2013 and missed the last five due to a sprained knee. He's one of Florida's top talents and is looking to bounce back after a sub-par season. Rising senior Max Garcia emerged as a leader last fall and started all 12 games, mostly at left guard and left tackle. Rising junior Tyler Moore made six starts at tackle last season before missing the final four games with a broken elbow. Mammoth juco transfer Trenton Brown played in every game last season as a junior and started the final five games at right tackle. Chaz Green was the Gators' starter at right tackle before he tore his ACL and missed all of last season.

Departures: Florida lost three seniors in center Jonotthan Harrison (12 starts), right guard Jon Halapio (10 starts) and guard/tackle Kyle Koehne (six starts). They were the heart and core leadership of the line. The Gators also saw key reserve Ian Silberman, who started the final four games at guard last year, transfer to Boston College after graduating in December. Two other transfers, Quinteze Williams and Trevon Young, never saw action for Florida.

Returning reserves: Rising junior Trip Thurman played in all 12 games as a backup. While he's not expected to unseat any of Florida's incumbent starters, Thurman will have an important role as the Gators' only returning reserve. The former three-star prospect has good size at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds and can play guard or tackle.

Newcomers: Last season, Florida redshirted tackle Roderick Johnson, center Cameron Dillard and guard Octavius Jackson, whose playing career is over because of a chronic shoulder injury. The Gators have three midseason enrollees who will participate in spring practice -- juco transfer Drew Sarvary and true freshmen Nolan Kelleher and Kavaris Harkless. This summer will see the arrival of three more linemen from UF's Class of 2014 -- tackles David Sharpe and Andrew Mike and guard Travaris Dorsey.

What to watch: No unit could use a clean slate more than Florida's offensive line. It struggled with injuries in 2013, but that wasn't the only major problem. The Gators have had trouble with pass protection for several years now, and it's proven to be one of the most crippling issues for an offense that hasn't been able to get out of its own way. Improving the pass blocking and developing depth are the two most important tasks this spring, and Florida will look to new line coach Mike Summers to lead the way. Summers comes to UF with 34 years of experience and a reputation as a fine teacher. Those skills will be put to the test, as the Gators have just five linemen with starting experience and only two others who have ever played in a college game. It's not necessary to settle on five starters this spring, but Summers needs to quickly figure out his players' strengths and best positions. Finding a replacement for Harrison, a three-year starter at center, is key. It's expected that a veteran like Moore or Garcia will make the shift to center, but Florida must continue to develop Dillard as a quality reserve who can eventually push for the starting job. Last year, Florida was unable to play a true spring game because of injuries to its offensive linemen, so staying healthy is another modest goal this spring. There are holes all over the two-deep roster and plenty of opportunities to win jobs. Fresh faces like Sarvary, Johnson and Kelleher will have their chances to carve out roles and perhaps even make it a competition with one of the five veterans. With a new OL coach and that much-needed clean slate, anything is possible.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's offense has been a problem for a few years now, and the line has taken its fair share of the blame. But 2013 was supposed to be different.

The O-line was expected to key a resurgent offense last season. It was experienced, talented and deep. But like a lot of positions on that woeful 2013 offense, a few injuries led to wholesale collapse.

To make matters worse, three senior starters departed and a key reserve was among three transfers. When the dust settled, Florida had just nine offensive linemen on scholarship.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Humphries
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesFormer five-star offensive tackle D.J. Humphries should be in line to start at left tackle for the Gators in 2014.
Last Wednesday, coach Will Muschamp announced a recruiting class with six offensive linemen, including three who are already on campus as early enrollees.

"We're getting our numbers back on the offensive line," Muschamp said. "We're right at 15. You'd like to have 15 to 17 offensive linemen on scholarship. That's a developmental game, but that's a huge developmental position, and that's where you've got to have guys in your program. So it's good to see that."

The offensive line continues our week-long series of the Gators' top positions with room to improve.

Battling for No. 1: It's not hard to project UF's starting offensive line because only five linemen on the roster have ever started a game. Only seven have ever played in a collegiate game, so there is a strong likelihood that those five veterans will be the Gators' starters. D.J. Humphries will look to reassert himself at left tackle after an injury-plagued sophomore season. Max Garcia should slide back to the left guard spot he played last season before injuries forced him to shuffle. Chaz Green, who started 19 games in two seasons, returns after missing last season due to injury. He mostly played right tackle but lacks bulk and could move inside. That would allow Florida to stick with 6-foot-8, 361-pound Trenton Brown on the outside. Then there's 6-5, 320-pound Tyler Moore, who played mostly at tackle last season before breaking his elbow. He could be a prime candidate to take over at center.

Strength in numbers: Florida hasn't developed much depth in recent years, and several offensive linemen have left the program. Trip Thurman, who will be a fourth-year junior this fall, has all of 15 career games as a backup under his belt. But that might make him the Gators' top reserve. Much was expected of Octavius Jackson, who came the closest to burning his redshirt last fall as a standout on the scout team. But his hometown newspaper recently reported that a shoulder injury has ended his playing career. Florida's other two linemen who redshirted last season will be counted on as key reserves in 2014. Roderick Johnson is well-built at 6-5, 316 pounds and could play tackle or guard. And Cameron Dillard was recruited as UF's center of the future. He'll need time to develop, however, because center is such an important position that it's doubtful the Gators would throw an untested freshman into the fire.

New on the scene: Of Florida's six new O-linemen, juco transfer Drew Sarvary might have the best chance of securing a role on the two-deep roster because he started 10 of 11 games for Florida A&M as a freshman before heading to junior college. The next most likely is guard Nolan Kelleher, who enrolled early and has the size (6-6, 305) to play right away. Another early enrollee, tackle Kavaris Harkless, will need time to bulk up. That and raw technique are common issues with true freshman offensive lineman, so it will take a special effort for any of the three freshmen who arrive this summer -- David Sharpe, Travaris Dorsey and Andrew Mike -- to earn significant playing time in the fall. Sharpe, the No. 2 OT prospect in the Class of 2014, has the athleticism to shine. Dorsey (6-3, 314) and Mike (6-6, 278) have the size to surprise.

Florida O-line needs infusion of talent

December, 12, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With a strong desire for early playing time, new Florida offensive tackle commit David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) couldn't help but see plenty of opportunity with the Gators.

Florida's offensive line has been a sore spot for the past two seasons. It's been beaten up by marauding defensive linemen, battered by injuries and called soft by head coach Will Muschamp. The O-line became an easy scapegoat on an offense that has struggled not only to throw forward passes but to keep quarterbacks healthy and clean.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Humphries
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesD.J. Humphries is all that's left on the offensive line from Florida's 2012 recruiting class.
Getting a commitment from the nation's No. 2 offensive tackle prospect comes at just the right time for a UF program desperate to discover an offensive identity.

Muschamp is fond of calling the SEC a line-of-scrimmage league, but his Gators have missed on a few high-profile offensive linemen in recent years.

Last year it was Laremy Tunsil, the No. 1 offensive tackle prospect in the nation, who lived 45 miles up the road from Gainesville in Lake City. He had significant interest in Florida during his junior year of high school, but it waned throughout his senior year before he signed with Ole Miss. Tunsil lived up to his billing this fall, starting all but four games at left tackle for the Rebels as a freshman.

The Class of 2012 was a strong year for offensive linemen in the state of Florida. But Jacksonville's John Theus signed with Georgia and Palm Beach Gardens' Avery Young chose Auburn. Both are solid starters in the SEC.

UF wound up signing just one of the 2012 Floridian offensive linemen in Jessamen Dunker, who redshirted and was expected to compete for a starting job last spring. But he was arrested, suspended and transferred not long after his first year was complete.

Dunker's departure reduced Florida's already-tiny 2012 OL class to just D.J. Humphries, who started seven games at left tackle this season before a knee injury sidelined him for the final five games.

To bolster depth and stabilize the line, the Gators dipped into the transfer pool. They signed former Maryland left tackle Max Garcia, who stared all 12 games this past season; former Nebraska tackle Tyler Moore, who made eight starts before breaking his elbow; and juco transfer Trenton Brown (five starts).

The roster numbers are dwindling. UF loses three seniors in Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison and Kyle Koehne. The school also announced Thursday that junior guard Ian Silberman is departing, and freshmen Quinteze Williams and Trevon Young will transfer.

That means the Gators will have just two seniors next season in Garcia and Brown among nine returning offensive linemen. Starting right tackle Chaz Green would have been a part of that senior class, but he was injured in preseason camp and missed the 2013 season. With a medical hardship waiver, he can return as a fifth-year junior.

With six linemen leaving, the pressure is on Florida to sign at least the four pledges it currently has in Sharpe, Travaris Dorsey, Nolan Kelleher and Dontae Angus.

Another key to balancing the classes will be the progress of Florida's redshirt freshmen. While the Gators missed on some touted high school prospects, they instead stocked up on projects and players with projectable frames in their Class of 2013.

Florida was able to redshirt the three true freshman offensive linemen it signed. Guard Octavius Jackson drew the most praise in practice and came the closest to playing. Cam Dillard is being groomed to be UF's center of the future. Roderick Johnson has the size (6-foot-5, 315 pounds) to compete for playing time in the spring.

Of course, they'll all have to contend with Sharpe, who plans to see the field in 2014 as well.
The annual Florida-Florida State game is usually one of the top games in the country. This year, with Florida’s disappointing season, the game seems to have lost some luster. Florida State, however, is fighting for a chance to make it to the BCS National Championship game in January. The Gators would like nothing more to ruin their archrival’s season, especially in front of several top recruits. Here’s a closer look at which recruits will be watching this weekend.


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SEC class rankings analysis 

November, 13, 2013
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With Missouri's recent run on the field and the recruiting trail, all 14 teams in the SEC are in RecruitingNation's top-40 class rankings. While Missouri and Tennessee have made the most news of late, the strangle hold on the top spot remains in the hands of Alabama.

Trending up: Missouri and Auburn are a pair of schools on upward trends. Missouri's Tigers had a huge week with commitments from ESPN300 No. 82 Andy Bauer (Saint Louis, Mo./De Smet Jesuit High) and No. 239 Brandon Lee (Indianapolis, In./Lawrence Central High). The SEC East leaders are now clearly in the picture for No. 145 Brian Wallace (Saint Louis, Mo./Christian Brothers College High), No. 156 Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central High) and others.


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SEC recruiting storylines: Oct. 24 

October, 24, 2013
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Taking a look back at the week that was in the SEC recruiting and looking ahead as teams build toward signing day, here is a peek at some of the top SEC recruiting storylines.

Nation's No. 4 to see Tuscaloosa

The nation's No. 4 prospect overall, Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge High), will make his official visit to Alabama this weekend after tripping to favorite Michigan in September. The 6-foor-4, 262-pound five-star will also officially visit Florida on Nov. 8 before announcing his decision on Nov. 14 at his high school.

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If you know ESPN 150 offensive tackle Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central), then you know that nothing tends to bother him. Not the stress of being the No. 2 player in the state of Missouri. Not being a four-star athlete.

Not even his recruiting process -- one that seems to remix every day.


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UF weekend visitor preview 

January, 25, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Signing day is just around the corner and this will be the second-to-last weekend Florida can host official visitors.


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Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday through Jan. 31, GatorNation will break down each position. We’ll look at 2013, of course, but also try and give you a peek beyond next season, too. Today is offensive tackle. We will profile center/guard on Jan. 10.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

[+] EnlargeTyler Moore
Brad Barr/US PresswireTyler Moore, who set a Nebraska record with four starts on the offensive line as a true freshman, is expected to compete for a starting tackle position as a sophomore transfer.
Two-deep: With the graduation of Xavier Nixon, sophomore D.J. Humphries will step into the starting spot at left tackle. He’ll be pushed by junior college behemoth Trenton Brown (6-foot-8, 350 pounds), who is scheduled to enroll early. Chaz Green likely will hold on to his starting job at right tackle, but he’ll have to hold off Nebraska transfer Tyler Moore, who sat out the 2012 season and also is scheduled to enroll early.

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OL Johnson makes late arrival count 

January, 2, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Offensive lineman Rod Johnson (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage) was a late arrival to the Under Armour All-America Game, but he didn’t take long to get involved in the fracas.

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound senior was a late injury replacement and arrived here around 9 p.m. ET Monday. He will wear No. 54 in Friday’s game, which will be televised live on ESPN from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has landed it's third commitment of the day, as four-star offensive lineman Rod Johnson (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage) recommitted to Florida on Sunday evening. The four-star tackle prospect chose Florida over West Virginia and Florida State.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound tackle originally committed to Florida early in the recruiting process before opening things back up. After taking a few official visits, Johnson decided to make his pledge to Florida again.

"When I talked to coach [Tim] Davis on my in-home visit," Johson said, "I really had a good time talking with him, just talking to me about the program and getting early playing time. He talked to me about graduating and getting my degree. He kind of left that on my shoulders and left it on my parents' shoulders as well.

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State of Florida weekend primer 

October, 5, 2012
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Back for another round of notes and going into detail this week on the spotlight area of the state: Palm Beach County and the surrounding Treasure Coast area.

Palm Beach/Treasure Coast prospects rated by ESPN Scouts: 21
Palm Beach/Treasure Coast players in ESPN 300: 6
Highest-rated Palm Beach/Treasure Coast prospect: RB Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Day)

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SEFFNER, Fla. -- Four-star offensive lineman Roderick Johnson helped lead Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage to a 36-28 upset win over Seffner (Fla.) Armwood on Friday night. The 6-foot-6, 316-pound tackle prospect helped lead the way for Greg Bryant, the No. 2-ranked running back in the country.

Behind the blocking of Johnson, Bryant rushed for two touchdowns. Johnson said it was a big win, but he is already looking ahead to next week.

"I feel like we got a lot off of our chest for this season," he said, "but now we have to get ready for our next game. It's an honor to block for Greg because I know he's the best running back in the country."

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Florida recruiting: weekend preview 

September, 7, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida head coach Will Muschamp and offensive line coach Tim Davis were on hand to watch Florida wide receiver commit Chris Thompson and his Gainesville (Fla.) High School teammates defeat Lake City (Fla.) Columbia and their five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil 17-14 on Thursday night.

The victory was bittersweet for Gainesville, however, as Thompson left the game early with a lower leg injury. There is no word yet how serious the injury is.

The Gainesville victory over Columbia was just the start to a packed weekend full of great games involving Florida commits. Here's a closer look at some of the games to keep an eye on this upcoming weekend.

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Four-star OL Johnson updates status 

August, 25, 2012
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Although four-star offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage) backed out of his commitment to Florida two weeks ago, the 6-foot-6, 316-pound senior isn't done with the Gators.

Johnson said he needed to make the move so he could fully evaluate other interested programs.

"I still have a good relationship with the coaches at Florida," Johnson said. "They have treated me well and it was out of respect for the process that I made the decision.

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ESPN 300 Ranking Motivates Byron Cowart
After a recent rise into the top 10 overall, defensive end Byron Cowart of Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) joins ESPN's Matt Schick to discuss recruiting and the new ESPN 300.Tags: Byron Cowart, Armwood, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Matt Schick
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