Trip Thurman will be the most important player on Florida’s offense in 2015.
Yes, whoever ultimately wins the quarterback job will play a major role in deciding what the offense’s outcome will be.
But it won’t matter if the offensive line can’t block.
That’s where Thurman — the Gators’ only proven commodity up front — comes in.
Thurman, a redshirt senior, is the only returning lineman with even a single start under his belt. He played in all 12 games last season, starting 10 at left guard, and he got on the field in all 12 games as a backup in 2013.
But besides him, the rest of the line is an unknown, and Thurman’s leadership abilities are going to determine the entire team’s fate this season.
Redshirt senior Mason Halter, who transferred from Fordham, did start 14 games last year and was an Associated Press third-team All-American, but those starts came against the likes of Holy Cross and Bucknell, not exactly juggernauts with defensive lines on the same level as an LSU or Georgia.
Sophomore David Sharpe played in six games last season but has yet to crack the starting lineup.
The rest of the group consists of redshirt sophomore Cameron Dillard, freshmen Martez Ivey and Tyler Jordan and a slew of others who have limited to no experience in the college game. That’s a lot of question marks.
There is talent among them to be sure, but adjusting to the mental and physical speed of the game and learning how to work together on the fly will be the most crucial element of Florida’s season.
Thurman certainly believes that.
“It’s very important,” he said. “We need everybody on the same page. Last year, Fall camp was big for us with the older guys getting everybody on the same page. That’s really key. Five guys working together doing the same thing.”
This year, getting everyone on the same page has fallen on Thurman’s shoulders, whether it be tutoring Ivey and Jordan on the playbook, exemplifying how to be a consummate professional or pushing everyone to interact on the field. But the redshirt senior has embraced the role.
“It makes it easier on other guys,” Thurman said. “I try to be a team player out there and teaching the young guys and getting them on the same page is key for the depth of this offensive line.”
While it may not be noticeable to outsiders, his teammates can see the effects of Thurman’s efforts.
“We’re all talking, we’re all communicating,” Dillard said. “Trip has helped a lot with that, just being a leader.”
It didn’t just start this summer, either. Thurman has been doing the same things ever since the departure of last year’s line.
“He’s a floor facilitator,” Sharpe said back during Spring practice. “He definitely knows his X’s and O’s. … It’s great playing with him. It makes the game much easier.”
While Thurman’s impact has been felt pre-season, the job ahead of him is still daunting.
All five linemen communicating on the practice field is far different than communicating in front of more than 100,000 screaming fans in Death Valley.
That’s why so much rests of Thurman.
The rest of Florida’s offense could be the reincarnation of the 2013 Denver Broncos, but if the left tackle misses his assignment on a blitz pickup, it’s all a moot point.
The Gators need a lot of things to go their way offensively if they hope to reach their goal of challenging for an Southeastern Conference East title.
They need a solid quarterback.
They need a breakout season from someone in the backfield.
They need game-breakers to emerge in the receiving corps.
But it all starts with the men in the trenches, and that begins and ends with Trip Thurman.
Graham Hack is a 20-year-old UF journalism senior who covers Gator football for the Alligator. He loves NASCAR, only counts golf swings that actually make contact with the ball and has no problem belting out Taylor Swift lyrics while in public.
This article was from University of Florida / Independent Florida Alligator and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.