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Gators Rebuilding 2010: The offensive line

We continue our season preview, "Gators Rebuilding 2010." Until kickoff on Sept. 4 against Miami-Ohio, we will have a series of posts on players, positions and factors that will determine the Gators' success or failure this season. For all previous posts tagged as "Gators Rebuilding 2010" click here.

Coming into this season, Florida had two huge bonuses on offense; an established running game and an established offensive line. Instead, tackles Matt Patchan (wrist) and Xavier Nixon (knee) will miss at least the home opener. Only Urban Meyer's decree saved Mike Pouncey from starting his season at right tackle, instead of center. But, with the impressive Sam Robey (who nearly made the o-line last season) backing up Pouncey, there is a slim possibility for Pouncey to move outside.

The Gators have the benefit of Marcus Gilbert and Carl Johnson to start the season, giving UF 3 of 5 starters from 2009. If Nixon can rehab quickly for getting his knee scoped, UF will have plenty of experience when they go to Knoxville in week 3. The question mark of the fifth spot is of serious concern (could it be Maurice Hurt, James Wilson or Ian Silberman?).

UF can only go as far as the line takes them. John Brantley will need all the help he can get and it starts with staying upright. We'll have a better sense after the first game how he works with the line, especially in moving the pocket and how quickly he will go through his progressions. Running the ball, nothing changes between 2009 and 2010. Perhaps with the emergence of Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown, they will keep Jeff Demps for off-tackle and run the bigger guys through the middle. Of course, UF's offense is meant for everyone to run everything, which means Emmanuel Moody dives for no gain followed by him never seeing the field again.

I would expect Pouncey to have a great season and to be a huge help in the growth of Brantley. If the rest of the line is average, the line would have been successful.