With No. 4 LSU and its dominant defensive line coming to Gainesville this weekend, No. 10 Florida is considering a switch at arguably the most important spot along its offensive line.
Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon was replaced by freshman D.J. Humphries to start the second half of Florida's win against Kentucky on Sept. 22, and coach Will Muschamp said Monday that who starts on Saturday will be determined in practice this week.
"Whoever practices the best will play," Muschamp said when asked if it was possible Humphries would play this week. "We expect him to do a championship job.”
Humphries is a true freshman who came in as a five-star recruit ranked No. 2 overall in the nation, according to Rivals.com. He played in a reserve role as early as Week 1 against Bowling Green and it seems Florida's coaches have been grooming him to replace Nixon sooner rather than later.
"D.J. deserves to play. He played well," Muschamp said after the Kentucky game. "I don’t care what year he is. He plays well and practices well and plays well and he deserves the opportunity.”
Muschamp was then asked if Humphries has a chance to start against LSU.
"We’ll see," he said. "We’ll see who practices the best."
Nixon has struggled during his time as a Gator -- weight issues, penalties and poor technique have prevented him from playing to his potential. He has not been a liability thus far this season, but with LSU coming to town, it's easy to see why Humphries is being considered.
"We know about their speed rushers," quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "They’re going to get in there quick."
Driskel said the Gators have some things prepared to counteract the Tigers' speed and power up front. Draw plays, quick passes and having tight ends and running backs assist in blocking the defensive ends will all help the offensive line against LSU. But UF can't help the linemen on every play, and each man up front is expected to hold up in a one-on-one situations.
Driskel said he's confident that Humphries can do that.
"He’s a guy that’s worked hard ever since he’s gotten here," Driskel said. "He came in in the spring, a little undersized but he’s really fast and he’s great in his technique. We have all the confidence in the world in him."
While Nixon's experience is certainly an asset, it's Humphries ability to keep up with LSU's speed on the edge that is the difference between the two. It's also why, as a true freshman, Humphries has a chance to play a pivotal role against one of the nation's top teams.
"It’s definitely hard (playing left tackle as a freshman), especially with the SEC defensive line that are so fast and have such good get-off off the ball," Driskel said. "But he’s quick as well. He has great technique, and he’s a smart player. He’ll be fine."