It’s approaching ‘show us’ time for this UF unit

41
1402
UF offensive linemen run a drill during practice this month. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

There are narratives and then there is reality.

The narrative is that Florida’s offensive line will be better this year.

The narrative is that the Gators have experience.

The narrative is that these guys are in the best shape of their lives.

The narrative is that the numbers are the best they have been in a long time around here.

The reality is that just having guys back doesn’t mean it’s going to be better.

Yep, we can listen to the players talk about how much they love their offensive line coach John Hevesy. They talked about how they loved Brad Davis last year when he took over as the offensive line coach. And the guy before that and so on.

We can look at the narrative of Hevesy’s work at Mississippi State. We can listen to players talk about a different blocking scheme.

“We’re blocking more landmarks than people,” said senior Tyler Jordan. “We’re not blocking people, we’re blocking landmarks on people’s bodies, get to a certain point on his body.

“It’s actually easier especially, more beneficial to us, especially for the younger guys coming in.”

We can look at this offensive line and believe it could be a strength on this team. Martez Ivey came back. Jordan feels like he’s been around for 10 years. Jawaan Taylor is a beast. And so on.

But all I can think is, yada-yada-yada.
Pardon me while I yawn, but that’s probably because we all — media and Gator fans and anyone with eyes — remember last year.

Florida’s offensive line was supposed to be the strength of the offense, remember? Players were bragging at media day a year ago that the offense could be ranked in the top five at year’s end.

Instead, it finished 110th in total offense.

That’s not all on the line, but we knew one game into the season that the head coach’s confidence in his O-line was little more than talk. Maybe he was trying to build up some confidence in a maligned group. Maybe he was just watching it have success against an undersized defensive line.

Maybe he was just wrong.

That’s why it’s difficult to believe in this offensive line until it actually moves some people off the ball.

And I’m not talking about Charleston Southern.

Hevesy has come to Florida with a loud bark. He’s not afraid to jump down throats and hurt feelings.

“It’s OK,” said center T.J. McCoy. “We need some tough love.”

Actually, the line could use any kind of love. But that love has to be earned in the sweaty, violent trenches of SEC football.

There is no doubt Mullen inherited a much better situation than his predecessor, who only had a handful of scholarship linemen when he took over in 2015. It forced him to take a grad transfer and stick him at right tackle.

Somehow, Florida managed to win its first six games that year, but the line was exposed down the stretch and hasn’t been SEC caliber since.

“We’ve all taken it to heart that we have to do something special this year,” Jordan said. “We have to do everything we can extra to be successful.”

Ok. Do it.

Because no matter who the quarterback is or how improved the receivers are and how deep Florida in at running back, none of it is going to matter if this offensive line isn’t tough and physical.

Holes don’t open by themselves. Quarterback play suffers in the heat of a pass rush.

If Florida is going to exceed expectations, heck, if Florida is going to live up to expectations, the line is the key.

“We have the most to prove,” McCoy said. “We haven’t done anything. I think this year we can show what we’re capable of doing.”

Already this week, Mullen has said he was concerned about the lack of consistency with this group. OK, it’s still early in camp. And it’s a long season.

It’s time for Florida to have a good offensive line again. Nobody is asking for the 1984 Great Wall. There are no Pouncey twins.

But the makings are there for a line that can certainly be better than last year’s. Not that it would be difficult.

This might be a strong unit. It’s up to them to show us all.

Until then, it’s just a narrative.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

 

41 COMMENTS

  1. I knew Mac wasn’t going to make it after game one last year. He had declared the OL to be the strength of the team, then the Michigan DL tossed them around like rag dolls.
    I actually think we will know a LITTLE, Pat, in the first game. The last few teams usually couldn’t move directional schools’ DLs off the ball. Of course, SEC play is the standard.

    • Steve- we could tell last year that our entire team wasn’t strong enough to play the SEC schedule that we know exists every year. That is what has made the Tide so good for so long. There is not much to do in Alabama so it is easier to lift a lot…lol. Let us hope that Savage has taken care of the soft bellies and created young men capable of playing in the SEC. GO GATORS!!!

  2. Pat, though I completely understand your point here…that is, put up or shut up, and the talk means nothing, you do have to remember, what coaching staff you are referring to. Based on everything we now know, is it really any surprise that there were major letdowns in every category? Coach McYellow didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing here. Not to mention, the prior joke of a strength and training program that is now coming to light. So, I hear you, but can you really say you don’t expect more from Mullen and Savage? They can’t be worse, for sure.

  3. TO ALL CRITICS WHO HAVE SAID PAT JUST PASSES ON THE CURRENT NARRATIVE: Wrong.

    TO GATORGI: Your influence is larger than you realized. Reference: “OK. Do it”.

    TO ALL GATORS: 22 days and a wake up!

  4. Pat is absolutely correct, the O line is the key to success. QB play will be somewhere between good enough and very good. Without the line performing to Gator standards, the rest doesn’t have a chance. Go big uglies and Go Gators.

    • You know, I woke up this morning and was thinking, “Is coaching really the main thing or not?”. That is, being a little worn down about all the chatter regarding why we don’t get 5* athletes and all, how Mullen better get his head out on the recruiting trail, ad infinitum, yadda yadda blah blah…..

      I thought of Kentucky, and then realized they are getting better after all; and then I thought of Vandy and the period James Franklin was there and they rocked. And it came to me: YES. This was already a more talented team in terms of native skills than Mullen had at MSU, we pulled in a bunch of highly regarded 4* players to add to it, the 3*s that we got ain’t too shabby either, and we added some highly skilled transfers to boot. That goes for the OL too, part and parcel, and it is all in Dan Mullen’s hands now. If Franklin could do it with Vandy, of all places — then by God, Dan Mullen can do it here too. SO YES, THE OL WILL STEP UP THIS YEAR, BIGGER, BETTER, STRONGER, MORE CONFIDENT, AND MOST OF ALL BETTER COACHED.

      Don’t you just love it when you answer your own question?

      • Bigger, Stronger, faster. 6 Million Dollar Man intro’s. Of course with inflation it would be 6 Billion plus cost over runs. All joking aside I have felt that way all along. The programs you mentioned did well if for a short time. The thing I felt they lacked during those stints was depth which we have at most positions. Where we had a incompetent staff top to bottom (I know some will say there were position coaches that shined but their sections didn’t) Mullen has a staff that is or appears to be on the same page and understands his intent. Now we have competence top to bottom. 6 good stuff.

      • 6….if you get any more rational and intelligent than that, we’re just going to have to promote you to King of this Forum. Dang son, that was good 🙂

  5. Good article. This is right on point. I do hope these players are listening and learning and starting to take some pride in their performance, if not for their own sake for the sake of the QBs who were beaten to a pulp last year while this unit failed and failed and failed. Part of being a good team mate is taking care of your team mates. The only thing this unit took care of last year was a whole lot of pizza.

  6. The 2018 Gators will go as far as the OL takes them. Period! We have pretty much the same group of OL players as last year so by the Kentucky game we’ll know if better coaching and S&C made a difference. I suspect that the OL will be much improved this year (crossing my fingers).

    22 days and a wake up!!!

  7. Frankly, I wish the OL just shuts up and prove it on the field. Every year its the samo samo. It’s no wonder we all take it with a grain of salt. Show it on the field and not with your talk. I’d rather they say, talk is over, the only way we can be credible is showing it on the field so ya’ll have to wait and watch. Personally, they have to improve, can’t get much worse than what we’ve seen under mac.

  8. The narrative only becomes the “Narrative” through lazy journalism, including reporters and columnists who care more about maintaining access to current and former coaches and UAA officials than fair, objective analysis. Copying and pasting what is said at the lectern or written in a press release is not journalism. It is obvious that McElwain has no friends at the Sun. He clearly was incompetent at UF, but I doubt we’ll see articles like this on the Gator passing game during Muschamp’s tenure, Zook’s misuse of Rex Grossman, or Foley’s mismanagement of the football program.

    • Aw man…ZOOKER…I am reminded of the Outback Bowl vs Michigan backward pass to Vernell Brown Jr from Rex when we were DRIVING at will. Yeah…no one knew what was coning when VBJ entered…

  9. Best article of fall camp. 100% on target. Nothing else matters if the O-line doesn’t perform better. With their experience they should be a dominant group. O-line is perhaps the one group where “want to” is as equally as important as talent. A position where you can build yourself into a dominant player by working hard in the weight room and honing your technique. Their improvement will be a testament to the direction of the program.

  10. No one— no one — should hold that 2015 O-line accountable for its struggles. McElwain’s blunders at Florida are well chronicled. But the man inherited only ONE lineman that season and the graduate transfer was from small-school program Fordham.

    I’ll also point out that offensive lines with three true sophomores, a redshirt freshman and a true freshman (2016) should be given plenty of slack.

    Last year was a far different matter and it exposed some fundamental shortcomings in the McElwain program. By the time linemen are third and fourth-year players they should have whatever quality they’re gonna have well in hand. What did in our guys last year might be due in part to lack of talent and commitment but I don’t believe it.

    It was a combination of a soft and inadequate strength and conditioning program and linemen in the hands of an overmatched line coach whose previous high point had been at Nirth Texas State.

    So I actually believe this reshaped group of linemen are going to become this fall what their potential can offer. That might rank them fifth or sixth best in the SEC or tenth. But I’m confident their much stronger, reshaped bodies and their best OL coach of their lives will yield good results.

    I’ve been told, by the way, that McCoy’s moving to guard and Heggie will be the starting center to put more size and strength in the middle. The closed portions of practice are going up-tempo and the line is responding with some measure of progress. Be encouraged.

    As for McElwain, except for Geoff Collins, hired away from Mullen’s MSU staff, and Chris Rumph, can you name ONE proven, experienced assistant coach McElwain employed? Randy Shannon as a linebacker coach? But certainly not as a coordinator.

    How would you compare McElwain’s hires with the veteran SEC staff Mullen’s out in place? It’s leadership and coaching, planning and process.

    • JeJuan Seider. ( forgive me for butchering the spelling of the man’s name). But he was the key to the recruiting and they keys are gone. the 2019 class is last in the SEC. Last. Other than that, we are much better off, but Seider was critical and DM probably miffed on that one.

    • Side note….the Wifey and I recently ran into Chris Rumph at the Pool Store (or as I call it, the Green Egg Store) and chatted with him a bit. VERY nice guy and he even had a recommendation for a green egg accessory for us. His shiny new Benz in the parking lot still has a Gator Tag on it 🙂

  11. I can’t wait to see how these guys handle blitzes. If it’s like last year…well it’s important that it not be like last year.
    After Michigan the template of how to beat us was there pretty much the whole year long.

  12. Observation. Since Zook and others were mentioned here it sparked something that may be pertinent to our current team and the comment on coaching. Mullen has adapted his coaching and play call to what he has (their individual and collective strengths) not trying to force a player or group of players to fit a system that doesn’t fit their skill set. This applied to Zook, Muschamp, Yellow Teeth (credit given for the title) The proverbial square peg in a round hole. Mullen has had several different style QB’s and molded the team around what he had/has. In the west he did amazingly well with the resources at hand. As long as he continues to evolve with the skill sets we recruit Gator Nation is going to be rockin along again. The guys here that are diehards will be happy, the fans that have drifted will come back and once again we’ll be the rowdy (deservedly so) fans of a team that is worthy of being Gators.

  13. The starting QB has an incredible arm and…..well that’s about it. The back up has never played a down of HIGH SCHOOL football and we sit and wait with anticipation over who the starter is. Much has been said about Nuss and Butterteeth “seeing something” in Trask. They saw a depleted roster and offered him a scholly. Trask is a very classy smart young man, and he will put in the work, but the experience is NOT there. Meanwhile, back in Athens, Kirby is trying to decide between which of his 4 5 star elite quarterbacks to trot out on the field.
    Dan Mullen will get it done, but as he said himself…..not this year.

  14. To the defense of the OL, one, we had a crap of a S & C coach, two, we had a predictable OC that was equally crappy, third, we had a QB train wreck.

  15. Grow up guys, Remember these are just college kids working to further their education, they don’t owe us anything. If you want “show me” attitude go see an NFL game who get paid to show fans.. Just my opinion..

    • You’re right… they don’t owe us anything.

      But they do owe UF for the opportunity they have been handed and they do owe it to themselves to give their best effort. And while they don’t owe the fan or alumni anything, they should learn to appreciate us because without us…..there would be no big time college football and college scholarships and then where would many of them be. Just sayin…

  16. I agree that it is all talk until we seem some real improvement in the O-line. We have several good players a few who have the potential to become elite. Let’s see if the hard work pays off – a powder puff team to start off (do not take any opponent lightly or you may get unpleasantly surprised). Knock some bodies off the ball – get some pancakes – open holes (open holes, open holes), and above all, PROTECT THE QUARTERBACK!!!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here