When we take a look at the 2011 Florida Gator offensive line, the names that jump off the page are obviously the returning starters or the players who have previous experience. Although the Gators lose plenty of talent up front, they have some very talented returning starters and some very talented young men waiting to get their opportunity.
Xavier Nixon has had an impressive young career as a Florida Gator. Since moving into the starting lineup as a true freshman in the South Carolina game in 2009, Nixon has been a solid force on the outside.
The offensive line as a whole did not have a great season in 2010 though, seeming mostly confused through the year. However, Nixon has all the talent to be a four-year starter at Florida and will be a seasoned veteran in 2011.
Jon Halapio saw limited action as a true freshmen in 2009; however, made a splash in the lineup in 2010. Halapio became a starter at right guard and became a permanent fixture in the rotation. The 2011 season will move much slower for Jon, with a full year of SEC play under his belt.
The expected starters or contributors to fill the vacancies along the line in 2011 are a list of highly touted offensive lineman. Starting with Ian Silberman, who is a four-star recruit out of Orange Park. Others that are worth mentioning are Tucker Blanton, also from Jacksonville, and Leon Orr. Both look to fight for starting spots in the spring.
Sam Robey, from Louisville, Kentucky, Nick Alajajian and David Young have all seen action and are ready to make a push as starters, but experience will be a disadvantage for this group, which has only seen time in mop up duty or against under talented opponents.
Two players along the offensive line that seem to be wild cards are Matt Patchen and James Wilson, both have struggled with injuries and consistency.
Patchen battled a wrist injury for all of the 2010 season, but has shown plenty of versatility in his career at Florida. As a true freshman, Matt played on the defensive line and contributed mightily in the 2008 National Championship.
Wilson has battled inconsistency and injury, but looks to have one more shot to make his presence known on the line.
No position on the team has seen an increase in talent as much as the tight end position. With Gerald Christian and Jordan Reed seeing most of the playing time in 2010, the position will add talented A.C. Leonard to the group in 2011.
Desmond Parks still is looking to break into the lineup, but has struggled thus far. Of all of the tight ends, Reed looks to be the most talented pass catcher, hauling in some big catches in 2010, before moving back to the quarterback position.
There is a chance though that he will be kept at the quarterback position; however, as talented as Reed is, I look for the staff to find a position for him to get him on the field. Once a liability, the tight ends in 2011 could be a team strength, especially if Charlie Weis has his quarterbacks dropping the ball off underneath early and often.
There will be lack of experience in 2011, but the talent is there to successful.
With the staff bringing in a new scheme, the fresh faces along the offensive line might be helpful as the staff looks to coach different techniques and assignments.
The 2011 Florida Gator defense will follow…
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