Gators making progress in regrouping and rebuilding offensive line

Cameron Dillard pulled a bit of a Houdini maneuver on reporters waiting outside the Heavener Athletic offices at The Swamp on Saturday after Florida's Orange and Blue Debut spring game.

He never appeared as recruits streamed out of the complex, but On Monday he made a reappearing act.

Dillard, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound offensive guard out of Canton, Mich., was still in head coach Will Muschamp's office when word trickled out that Dillard had become the 15th member of the Gators 2013 recruiting class.

Shortly after word had gotten out, Dillard posted on his Facebook page, "Just committed to The University of Florida!! Gator nation!"

Dillard is part of what has become a rebuilding of the offensive line and he will be a big part of that growth period as Muschamp and crew look to resurrect a line that was overwhelmed last season by bigger and faster SEC defensive linemen, and also depleted a bit with injuries, leading to inexperienced youngsters going up against some of the best D-lines in the country.

Dillard is ranked as the No. 13 offensive guard in the country by It's a big steal for the Gators since Canton is just a short drive from the Michigan campus of Ann Arbor and the Big House.

The Gators also got a commitment from fellow offensive guard Josh Outlaw (6-4, 290) on Saturday, who was one of three pledges the Gators received at the spring game. Florida also got commitments from WR Ahmad Fulwood (6-4, 197) and DB Tre Bell of Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep.

Outlaw is the No. 20-ranked offensive guard in the country and said he had 30 pancake blocks last season.

Florida has three offensive linemen committed to the 2013 class so far. Joining the most recent commits if Roderick Johnson (6-6, 300) of Delray Beach American Heritage. Johnson committed March 25.

The Gators are also reported to be in the running for Buford (Ga.) guard Josh Cardiello, depending on how many offensive guards UF intends to bring in with this class. Cardiello has a top three of UF, FLorida Stae  and Georgia.

During Saturday's spring game, Muschamp saw vast improvement in an offensive line that had sunk to rock bottom during last year's Florida State embarrassment. After that contest, Muschamp berated his offensive line -- as well as others -- in his media session, publicly challenging his players, calling them all "soft."

He did take full responsibility for the performances, saying “It starts with me. It falls on my shoulders, and I’m the one that’s responsible.”

The Gators didn't exactly make a huge recruiting push toward offensive line depth with the just-signed 2012 class, signing two players in Jessamen Dunker (6-6, 315) of Boynton Beach and tackle D.J. Humphries (6-5, 265) of Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek. Last year, Humphries earned the Anthony Muñoz National Lineman of the Year award, given to the top prep lineman in the country.

Both Humphries and Dunker are spring enrollees and played well in the spring game on Saturday, and Muschamp said his offensive front could be considered one of the team strengths coming out of Saturday's game.

Both Humphries and Dunker are spring enrollees and played well in the spring game on Saturday, and Muschamp said his offensive front could be considered one of the team strengths coming out of Saturday's game.

The experienced leaders coming into the 2012 season will be senior Xavier Nixon (6-6, 309), who started nine games last season, and redshirt junior Jon Halapio (6-3, 225), who started every game last season at right guard. Humphries will be pushing Nixon for that left tackle spot, and will provide for a much deeper Gator line.

Chaz Green (6-5, 305) and Matt Patchan (6-6, 279) are a solid duo at right tackle, with Patchan earning the nod so far, and redshirt seniors James Wilson (6-4, 327) and Sam Robey (6-3, 297) will man the left guard spot.

Wilson got a sixth year of eligibility after suffering several knee and foot injuries at Florida, while Robey played nine and has been right behind Wilson. The center again is redshirt junior Jonotthan Harrison (6-3, 309). He started all but one game last year. Other key backups will be sophomore Ian Silberman (6-5, 288), Kyle Koehne (6-5, 304), Tommy Jordan (6-4, 288), Trip Thurman (6-5, 315) and, of course, Dunker.

The emergence and growth in bonding with this offensive line is going to have a considerable affect on how well either of the two quarterbacks -- Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel -- perform this season and protection will make it that much easier for the two in their growth, as well.

 Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting.

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