GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Will Muschamp said all last season that for the Gators to challenge for the Southeastern Conference title they needed to upgrade both lines of scrimmage.
He moved closer to getting it done Wednesday.
Muschamp's second recruiting class included eight defensive linemen and the top-rated offensive tackle in the country. The Gators, however, finished with just eight offensive players. The 23-player class, ranked fourth by ESPNU, could improve if receiver Stefon Diggs ends up in Gainesville. The 6-foot-1 wideout from Olney., Md., will announce his decision Feb. 10.
Muschamp wanted to sign more, but he lost out on four players on national signing day. Receiver Nelson Agholor picked Florida State, cornerback Tracy Howard selected Miami, defensive end Leonard Williams chose Southern Cal and offensive lineman Avery Young preferred Auburn.
The Gators did get two late additions, with defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. switching from Florida State and receiver Raphael Andrades signing with Florida.
Fowler was part of a standout group of defensive linemen.
Although the Gators ranked eighth in the nation in total defense last season, their line got pushed around in losses to Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina. Even lower-division Furman ran for 233 yards against Florida.
So several defensive linemen in Florida's signing class should be able to help right away.
The eight include: Jonathan Bullard from Shelby, N.C., Bryan Cox Jr. from Fort Lauderdale, Fowler from St. Petersburg, Damien Jacobs from East Mississippi Community College, Alex McCalister from Clemmons, N.C., Dante Phillips from Venice, Jafar Mann from Stone Mountain, Ga., and Quinteze Williams from Tyrone, Ga. Cox is the son of former outspoken NFL player Bryan Cox.
Jacobs is one of six signees already in enrolled in school and will take part in spring practice. The others are: cornerback Willie Bailey from Hallandale, guard Jessamen Dunker from Boynton Beach, offensive tackle D.J. Humphries from Charlotte, N.C., linebacker Antonio Morrison from Bolingbrook, Ill., and receiver Latroy Pittman from Citra.
Dunker and Humphries, widely considered the No. 1 offensive tackle coming out of high school, could step in and compete immediately, since they will get a head start in the weight room and on the field.
There's little doubt Florida needed more playmakers.
The Gators ranked 105th in total offense last season, averaging 329 yards a game. Aside from the linemen, Florida added Jones, a 6-foot-2, 213-pounder who gives Muschamp a power runner, two tight ends, two receivers and quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg. Mornhinweg is the son of former Detroit Lions head coach and current Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
Skyler Mornhinweg was a relatively late addition to Florida's class after he de-committed from Penn State following child-abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.