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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.