GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Last season, the Florida Gators allowed a whopping 46 sacks in 14 games, about 3.29 sacks per game. Florida ranked 121st in sacks allowed per game – by far the worst in the SEC.
But this season, the Gators seem to have solidified this issue. There’s a set starting five – from left to right, David Sharpe, Martez Ivey, Cam Dillard, Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson – that combined for 37 starts last season. All five played major roles in 2015.
"I think we are markedly better at all the spots," coach Jim McElwain told reporters earlier this week. "And that has as much to do with gained experience, gained a year of strength, knowledge of what we’re trying to accomplish."
Perhaps the biggest issue is depth. Losing junior Antonio Riles Jr., a potential starting guard, was a major loss. Riles is experienced at both guard spots and would have allowed Ivey to play tackle or Jordan to play center.
In Riles’ absence, McElwain and offensive line coach Mike Summers will look to underclassmen to fill the holes behind the starters.
“I actually like our depth. I think we got some answers, even with Riles down,” McElwain said. “ 'Wanny' (Jawaan Taylor) is going to come in and help us, (Brandon) Sandifer has been doing a good job at both guard and tackle and we should get (Kavaris) Harkless back.”
Taylor (6 feet 5, 340 pounds) is a true freshman who has been getting rave reviews during fall camp. Look for him to push Johnson for playing time at right tackle.
Sandifer (6-3, 323) is a redshirt freshman, and Harkless (6-5, 310) -- who returned to practice late this week -- is a third-year sophomore tackle.
“When you look at the numbers, where we were sack-wise was unacceptable,” McElwain said. “I don't see that as big of an issue for us. It hasn't been in camp."
(You can follow Matt Fitzsimmons on Twitter @Fitzsimmons22)
© 2016, Matt Fitzsimmons. All rights reserved.
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