Offensive line coach Thomas Austin agreed that finding a replacement for Atkinson was important, but he was in the process of cross training players at different positions. Gilmore saw some time at tackle, just in case he had to slide out here like he did two years ago against Georgia Southern.
“We’re trying to create some competition and keep them a little bit uncomfortable,” Austin said. “We’re trying to rotate those guys as much as we can and work different combination groups.”
The primary candidates in spring were junior Connor Robbins (6-9, 310) and sophomores Despelado Alexandre (6-5, 285) and Johnathan Bass (6-4, 290).
“Those three guys have played the most football, gotten a lot of reps,” Austin said. “It’s about getting the best five guys on the field.”
Gilmore understands how the experienced offensive line can help whoever wins the quarterback job left open by the graduation of Dan Ellington. Spring practice ended before a starting quarterback could be established. Jamil Muhammad, a redshirt freshman transfer from Vanderbilt, and true freshman Mikele Colasurdo are competing for the job against holdovers Cornelious Brown and Keirston Harvey.
That group has seven total games of college experience — four for Brown and three for Harvey — and will definitely need help from its offensive line.
“Having all of us back will help him a lot,” Gilmore said. “If we had a young O-line, then there would be a whole lot of mistakes. With great protection up front from the older guys and just us picking him up — because we’ve all been in his shoes as a first-year player — it’s just supporting him and keeping him comfortable in there.”
Austin said, “I think that helps. Any time we can take some things off the quarterback and the center takes control of some of those things, it helps. I want to rotate guys in there, but also we’ve got to protect those quarterbacks.”