O-linemen out to make Florida quarterbacks untouchable

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Florida quarterback Kyle Trask sets up to pass in the second half Saturday against Missouri at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor (65) is providing protection. [Cyndi Chambers/ Correspondent]

Florida has given up only 11 sacks in nine games this season, a total that is tied for second-fewest in the SEC and would seem to reflect excellent pass protection by the offensive line.

But offensive line coach John Hevesy doesn’t see it that way. Not at all.

The number he worries about, and judges by, is not found on the SEC stat sheet.

Number of hits taken by the quarterback.

That’s the true reflection of pass protection as far as Hevesy is concerned. And, right now, it’s not a good look for the Florida offensive line.

“Never. Never,” Hevesy said, when asked if he’s pleased with the line’s pass protection. “In my mind, (the quarterback) shouldn’t get touched. People evaluate sacks. Sacks are a number that everyone keeps. My biggest thing is sacks don’t hurt as much as hits on quarterbacks.

“The ball is thrown and people watch the ball and don’t watch him get knocked down. You complete the ball and everyone’s happy. I don’t watch the ball, I watch the quarterback. It’s the hits when he’s throwing the ball, that bothers me more (than sacks).”

Hevesy doesn’t know the exact number of times the Florida quarterbacks have been hit this season, but he knows it’s been too many. So does Dan Mullen. So does Feleipe Franks, even though he’s never going to say it.

But Hevesy will.

“I think it’s always (too many),” Hevesy said. “I don’t know if it’s lately or just to me in general. I want to keep track of them. I’m looking at never. Don’t. That’s too hard of a job to do back there anyway, don’t make it any harder. You’ve got to keep him clean and keep him upright so he can make all his reads and progressions.”

The offensive line has given up only two sacks combined in the last two games, both losses, but the quarterback hits, if they’d been recorded, likely would be off the charts.

Those hits played a role in UF’s recent offensive struggles. And they probably played a big role in Franks getting benched in the third quarter of last Saturday loss to Missouri.

Franks wasn’t sacked by the Tigers, but he was hit often and pressured into a nine-for-22 performance that led to his removal from the game. Franks had open receivers, but rarely had time to get them the ball.

“He missed a throw or two, but he was also getting hit,” Mullen said. “We’ve got guys wide open and I’m looking and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ All of a sudden the ball sails. Everyone jumps on (Franks), and there he is with three guys being pulled off of him.”

Mullen points out one critical series early in the second quarter. The Gators were backed up on their own 6-yard line and had a chance to escape, getting wide receivers wide open on both second and third down. But Franks was hit on both plays, forcing errant passes. UF had to punt and Missouri scored a touchdown four plays later to take a 14-3 lead.

“We have two wide open receivers. And we overthrow both of them because the quarterback is getting lit up the second he tries to throw the ball,” Mullen said. “If we just protect on either of those two plays, they’re completions, and, all of a sudden the offense is playing great.

“Two guys on two different plays in protection.That’s why that happened. We miss two throws because the quarterback is getting hit within 1.6 seconds of the ball being snapped.”

 Those hits don’t show up on the stat sheet, but they could have been game changing.

This is a recent trend that Hevesy and his guys are trying to reverse, starting with Saturday’s game against South Carolina. Whoever Florida’s quarterback turns out to be, the goal of the offensive line is to make him untouchable.

“We’ve got to keep getting better at it,” Hevesy said. “Just talking to them about it, our feet and our hands and the fundamentals and understanding the protections, understanding the pressures.

“Down and distance. Third-down situation, what are you getting? Find your reads and make your sets.”

And protect your quarterback.

23 COMMENTS

  1. 2017 sacks allowed – Florida ranked 118 in the NCAA – 37 allowed
    2017 sacks allowed – Florida ranked 14 in the SEC – 37 allowed

    2018 sacks allowed – Florida ranked 20 in the NCAA – 11 allowed
    2018 sacks allowed – Florida ranked *2 in the SEC – 11 allowed
    * tied with USC and UM in SEC

    Anyone who says CDM n staff are the same or worse than mac n staff needs to hit that pipe again, get their head checked and do their fact check again. They are clearly delusional!! The Oline is getting better, they just need more time. Everyone seems to think we are Bama or Clemson and we should win all our games with a new coaching staff and seriously under developed kids. Please give me a break! The only people guilty of filling your heads with delusional thoughts are yourselves. Stat’s may be on paper, but are the best tool to compare season to season improvement/lack of. mac sucked canary juice as did his staff and hurt this team way more than ANYONE realized and yet, they expect it fixed in less than a full season. Pat n Robbie said it best, they are what they are at this point. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, PATIENCE Gators, they ARE getting better. Great article Robbie!

    • I can’t say picking out one specific stat about one area of the game can determine the difference between two entire coaching staffs. Especially when that one stat that supposedly proves one staff was better than the other has produced less wins than the staff that is supposedly inferior. The mighty Gators could easily stand at 6-4 about 72 hours. Indont think this is the time to be crowing about how awesome the new staff is.

      • Then again, This team COULD wind up being 10-3 by seasons end, Just saying. You are correct, but the PATHETIC Oline play last season and the season before and the season before is all mac Sir Tampa. Rushing – 2017- #68 – 159.6 yds per gm – 2018 – #50 – 182.4 yds per gm. Granted one or 2 stats don’t determine which is better, just states which is coached better in those areas where we have improved. Pfft to LT!! He brags about 2 seasons our DEFENSE took us to the SECCG because our offense(macs side) was pathetic clearly put!! If we don’t have Geoff Collins as our DC, that leaves Randy Shannon and we seen how badly that turned out! And we don’t make either SECCG!

      • Your comment is confusing. The Gators already have six wins this year, and they had four wins all of last year. How has the current staff “produced less wins than the staff that is supposedly inferior”? We should give Mullen another two or three years before we judge how “awesome” he is, but the signs are encouraging if we don’t let unrealistic expectations for this year cloud our judgment.

    • Did I miss something? Didn’t the previous staff only win 4 games with this team? Watch out Wisconsin Gator, you’re going to have LT down your throat very soon. You’re only allowed to use wins and losses in your determination of a better coaching staff, nothing else matters.

      • “You are only allowed to use wins and losses in your determination of a better coaching staff, nothing else matters.” Couldn’t have said it any better myself. I’m glad to see some people are actually opening up their eyes to the concept that in football, winning the game is all that matters. Nothing else matters at all. Not one bit.

          • Steveob
            Very well said sir, very well. The wins are all that matters. The offense is regressing and people who were saying how much more explosive this offense is than the other recent offenses seem to be dwindling in numbers. This offense is tanking and the wins are hard suddenly hard to come by. All the “progress” Franks has supposedly made has disappeared and all that silly talk about Mullen being a “qb whisperer” seems to have gone away too. The reality is, this program has issues that it will take years to fix. The problem is deeper than coaching and people can just keep bad mouthing past coaches and blaming them for the lackluster performances but those coaches were solid coaches at other jobs and only struggled here. Mullen is on the verge of falling in to that same category. He was solid at MSU but if he doesn’t finish this season strong, he’s going to be at step one again. Fighting an uphill battle in recruiting, going in to next season without a proven qb, etc. Heck, let’s go ahead and fire him and then talk trash about him? Why change the cycle now? Let’s just hop this team shows up and wins Saturday. Because if they don’t, all the false momentum most fans were bragging about us gone and there’s no logical way to look at next season any differently than you would look back at the last few. If Mullen were to have something happen like the credit card scandal McElwain dealt with last year, next year will probably be the year fans start turning in Mullen, I hope he pulls this off but I said when he was hired that fans would be trying to run him out of town in 3-4 yrs. I stand behind that.

        • Why all the doubting Thomases? I think there are plenty of indicators that Mullen is a much better HC than the previous coaches, with his communications skills and years of experience as an SEC head coach. The last two HC’s were learning as they went. It’s way to early for all the negative talk. He has a team that only won 4 games last year headed for a bowl game. Good start in my book. I hope he’s able to find a good qb or can perform a miracle with Franks. That’s an albatross around his neck. Good coaches usually do pretty well in their second year. I expect that Mullen will at UF as the players gain more experience in his system.

  2. Been away and it seems the system changed and someone else has taken my previous posting name, TAMPAGATOR (the poster above), on here now. So, the old TampaGator is now “SwampyGator”. Just to let everyone know, as I doubt I will be posting much on here anymore as the former TampaGator or even as the new SwampyGator. Not fun or interesting to be on here much anymore. So, enjoy the posts by the NEW TampaGator above, but do not mistake him for the previous one. But I guess I should monitor posts for a while to make sure the new TampaGator is not presenting himself as the former TampaGator. But I understand, as I also stole the TampaGator name from someone else when the system changed previously. Change is good, and sometimes better. Usually is that.

  3. LT, mac was bad , I would rather have Muschump. At least he had an awesome defense that wasn’t painful to watch for 4 seasons. mac was brought in to “fix” the offense and never did. He had an awesome QB whom he chased away for an under-developed QB. I have NOT talked trash about CDM once! After the UK game I decided to just change the mentality of thinking and stopped expecting CDM to be a miracle worker with under-developed and under-conditioned players. If they win, Awesome, if they lose, lets hope for better next game with NO expectations. It’s no secret that mac should have listened to Strickland when he told him to get rid of his S&C coach. When players are hiring outside S&C coach’s to better themselves, that’s a sure sign. When the players say things like “lax” and “lame”, that’s another. To be honest, UF has the potential to go 10-3 counting the bowl game compared to macs 10-4 I’d say that’s not to bad for a 1st season. Especially considering one offence is a spread and another was a pro style. The players are not even built for this type of Offense and CDM knows it. He is doing the best he can with the tools he has to try and make it work , almost like the liar did in his 1st season. Had these players been conditioned properly and developed properly maybe they don’t crash late in this season? Who knows? They only had 1 off-season to condition them and obviously that wasn’t enough. Just an FYI, A lot of real Gator fans, and you know who you are, have stated it would take 3-4 years to build this team back to where it once was. There are several fans who feel they should be playing like the first 6 games. Get on the field and show me, that’s what I have to say. Unless you have been in their shoes it’s impossible to judge what they are going through.We don’t have any clue! Muschump went through 3 OC and mac couldn’t see his “friend” sucked horribly as an OC/QB coach and was afraid to fire him. Plain and simple. FF is not our best option nor is KT. We can play EJ 3 of the 4 remaining games. We know he can throw a deep ball and can run but I’m sure CDM wants him to have a grip on the plays before he makes him a starter. Unfortunately, this takes time that Gator fans just are not willing to give. They want it fixed NOW and that isn’t going to happen. They are starting to make progress but it’s a slow pace. By no means am I or was I trying to imply they are beasts. Simply stating they are getting better in some areas that FANS are not giving them credit for. Head up the butt syndrome. But you come here and imply that mac and his offense wasn’t bad, your delusional. I’m not trying to offend you, just stating the obvious is all. Gooooooooo GATORS !!!!!

    • I never implied Macs offense wasn’t bad. You seem to read something in to what I’ve said that isn’t there. I’ve said Mac wasn’t a bad coach. Macs offense was bad but not because he can’t coach. He took over a program that has issues that long preceded him and will be here for awhile to come. Given time to get his own players in place, I feel like he would have gotten it done. Last season was an outlier as far as wins and losses go. The season started with a bunch of suspensions, most notably to his biggest playmaker, and only got worse with injuries. Yet when the decision was made to fire him, he was 22-11 as the coach and if it weren’t for two games being cancelled, would have been 24-11. Who fires a coach who takes over a program that obviously has problems after he goes 24-11?? His biggest issue was that after Grier left, he didn’t have a decent qb. But he did have one on the way in Matt Corral. He’s looked very impressive as a young qb at Ole Miss. Mullen is finding out the same thing Mac did. Without a good qb you will not win consistently without a good qb. As many people has said, he did it “with smoke and mirrors”. Ok, that means he’s a good coach to me. Who can win games without the players you need in this conference? Only a good coach. I think if Mac were here this team would be at least as good as it is now and on an upward trend. Instead the team looks like it’s struggling on offense…….again, and there is nothing but blind optimism that would indicate the program is on any better track than it would be if Mac was still the coach. The recruiting isn’t getting any better. The last time I checked we were 27th in recruiting. The team still looks like it’s splintered and has no leaders. And they lay down when the season presents real adversity. It looks no different to me than it has the last decade. Will Mullen get the job done? Hopefully. I think Mac would have too. His offense was good and getting better each game until Grier got suspended. All he needed was a good qb and he had one coming. All Mullen needs is a good qb but who knows when he will get one. Maybe Jones will be good, maybe he will be a bust. Nobody knows. Which has been my point through this season. Nobody knows how Mullen will turn out or if he will be any more successful than Mac or that he’s any better of a coach. It’s a total guess at this point.

      • One question, how can you honestly believe Mac would’ve gotten it done with the strength and conditioning program he had in place? He had over 30 injuries to starters the last 2 years. You could have the best players in the world, but if they’re as strong as 3rd graders, it won’t matter how highly rated you were coming out of high school.

    • And I agree I would rather have Muschamp too. But we ran him out of town early too. I understood why they fired Muschamp, but didn’t agree with the decision. After the four win season everyone knew he had to get a lot better the next year to keep his job. He only got a little better. But he had a top flight class coming in that was likely to have included Lamar Jackson. He would have been a good coach here. I loved his passion and enthusiasm. And he really wanted to be here. He loved being the Gator coach. I would have liked to seen Mac get a fourth year like Muschamp did. But the circumstances surrounding Mac were a no win situation for him. The fans didn’t like him because he seemed awkward and aloof. The administration didn’t like him because he ran things his way and didn’t let their influence change how he ran his program. I really didn’t care about his awkwardness, just win, that’s all that mattered as long as you are doing it the right way. I hope people can calm down and give Mullen time to find a qb. Because so far the fans are following the exact same path they did with Muschamp, McElwain, Zook, and if you think about it, even Meyer. None of those ended well.

    • And Mac did not “chase away” Will Grier. I’m sure you know that and, other than a general dislike for Mac, not sure why you would say that. It’s common knowledge that Grier and his father talked to Mac and told him that if Grier was not guaranteed a starting spot when he returned, that he would transfer to a program that would. I don’t care what anyone says, if you let the inmate run the asylum, you have already lost. No decent coach will guarantee a player something like that. Grier was a spoiled brat brought up in a family with privilege and if he chose to throw a tantrum and leave because he didn’t get what he wanted, that’s on him not Mac. I wouldn’t have wanted Mac to handle it any other way.

  4. in all fairness to Franks, he has evolved in finding the open receiver, seems to take hits without too many interceptions or injuries, and doesn’t get sacked which is a positive, and he is willing to look bad to fight for results. If you practiced throwing while getting hit, well, anyway i suppose in the future some machine will simulate it better, but this is just one of those limitations any coach faces. the ole ball coach had this problem with wuerffel and changed to a full shotgun for the national championship game and we all know that, plus the threat of better refereeing resulted in a major success.
    whatever the stats may say, I still think the OL is much better than at any time since HEvesy left the first time.