Of all the questions surrounding the Florida Gators as they wrap up Jim McElwain’s first spring as head coach, none has fewer answers than the offensive line.

Coming into spring, Florida was already looking to replace three stalwart members of the 2014 line: left tackle D.J. Humphries, a likely first round draft pick, as well as offensive MVP center Max Garcia and right tackle Chaz Green.

There were some replacements already on the roster ready to roll, guys like Trip Thurman and Rod Johnson. The rest of the spots on the line were shaping up to be open competitions to be settled in fall, once the 2015 recruiting class arrived on campus.

The Gators got hit with a truckload of bad news earlier this week when Johnson’s career came to an end. The redshirt sophomore, projected to start at right tackle, was injured in practice a few weeks ago, then was diagnosed with congenital cervical stenosis, a spinal condition that can lead to paralysis. He and Thurman were the only two linemen on the team with starting experience, and while Johnson’s health comes first, it stands a major blow to Florida’s line.

On top of that Thurman, expected to move inside from guard to center, has missed the entire spring with a shoulder injury. It’s the same injury that forced him to have surgery in 2013, and it’s described as a chronic condition. That brings concerns that the fifth-year senior could deal with the issue all season. The added detriment is that the Gators are missing the offensive line’s signal caller as they seek to develop a quarterback and an offensive identity.

While the options at quarterback, Treon Harris and Will Grier, are drawing plenty of attention, it won’t matter who is taking snaps this fall if the offensive line can’t protect them.

Martez Ivey, the highlight of McElwain’s recruiting class, becomes even more important at left tackle. He was expected to start there regardless; now, he becomes the most vital member of Florida’s offensive line. He’ll be joined this fall by five other offensive line signees, and those half-dozen players will make up half of Florida’s scholarship linemen.

If Thurman misses any time during the season, that would force the Gators to trot out a group made entirely of first-year starters. Those young, inexperienced linemen will have to pick up McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s blocking schemes at rapid speeds, or it could submarine the Gators’ season before it has a chance to get off the ground.

McElwain was brought in to revive an offense that had fallen down toward the bottom of the SEC. While the new head coach has a sharp offensive mind, he’s not a miracle worker, and without an offensive line in place he won’t be able to get the offense humming in his debut season.