Gators make great strides on offensive line

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Ocala North Marion offensive tackle Michael Tarquin signed his letter of intent with the University of Florida at Healthy Harts Fitness in Ocala last month. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner]

So everybody can breathe again.

The first big day of the early signing period is over and Florida did fine. Not spectacular, but fine. Not Alabama/Georgia fine, but you sense that the day when the Gators can have a top-five recruiting class is coming and it may be as soon as next year.

It almost seems like a cliche to say that you shouldn’t worry about recruiting rankings — team or player — but know that the true/false portion of the test is over and we are breaking before the one essay question to finish up the test.

Florida could end up with a top-10 class. Might not. If Diwun Black gets his academics straightened out, that’s another four-star and probably jumps Florida up a few spots.

But here’s what stood out to me is that Florida has recruited the offensive line of the future with the last two cycles.

Dan Mullen has signed 11 offensive linemen in the last two classes. They may not have the sex appeal of a rush defensive lineman or a breakaway tailback, but we all know how important it is to not only have five guys you can count on but three or four more who can rotate in.

“The foundation of the team are the lines of scrimmage,” Mullen said Wednesday night. “It’s easy to build a program around that.”

Late this season, Mullen had great things to say about the development of the four guys he signed last year, four guys who played just enough to get some experience while not losing their redshirts.

And with Florida likely losing both tackles (some mocks have Jawaan Taylor a first-round NFL pick) and both guards — while there are some willing replacements who did see serious playing time this year — these two classes are going to have a lot to say about how effective next year’s offensive line is.

“It’s huge,” Mullen said of the seven-player haul Wednesday. “We’re going to need some of them to play right away. If you look at where we’re at, we’re going to need some of them to play.”

That’s one reason five of the seven are early enrollees. Offensive line coach John Hevesy will take the four from last year and the five he’ll have in the spring from this year and mix them in with the handful of experienced  holdovers and try to come up with a line that can hold its own.

The offensive line was a huge area of need for UF. The numbers tell us the Gators addressed it.

Of course, as every coach will tell you, time will tell. But you’d rather try to find a working group with 16 guys on scholarship as Florida should have in 2019 than with the six scholarship linemen Jim McElwain inherited back in 2015.

10 COMMENTS

  1. The only thing Will Muschamp ever said that showed football smarts was, “this is a line of scrimmage league.” Truer words were never spoken. And, to run Mullen’s offense, the offensive line MUST be dominant. The way Florida won games this year was ground and pound the football, screen passes, and towards the end of the year, Franks was able to hit some passes downfield. Make no mistake about it, Mullen is run first, run second, pass in the classroom, and pass on the field 4th. Acquiring top offensive lineman is crucial to the success of Florida and it looks like he’s built a strong foundation for that. As he said in his presser, “3 years from now will tell.” That’s the variable for all recruiting classes. Time will tell. But for now, the lines of scrimmage, offense and defense, look good. Build from the inside out. We’ll see how they look 3 years from now. Football is a developmental game. We’ll see.

    • Grump,

      True that about WM’s line of scrimmage comment. However, his inane comment of “Penalties don’t matter” washes out the wisdom of his LOS comment and is bad enough to be a net negative for Coach Meathead.

      Many coaches (Steve Spurrier a notable exception) espouse a run first approach – for a reason. It’s the best way to “impose your will” on the other team. At the end of the day, football is more about blocking and tackling than anything else. And UF’s first (unofficial) SEC Championship was won on the shoulders of the Great Wall of Florida (you and I could get 1,000 yards running behind those guys). So the O-line and/or D-line is an EXCELLENT place to start to build the team.

      Good on Coach Dan for stocking the shelves with quality and quantity. Now coach ’em up. The rewards will come.

      Go Gators

    • That’s the style of offense Mullen ran this season. I don’t think you can really label his offense one way or another. He runs his offense based off of his personnel and who he has at Qb. I mean look at Prescott, in 2 seasons as the full time starter, he threw it 873 times for 7,242 yards and 56 TDs. That’s almost 4000 yards a season. In Tebow’s career he threw it 995 times for 9,285 yards and 88 TDs. If he’s got a Qb that’s accurate and makes good decisions, then he’s certainly going to throw it all over the place. He’s run primarily a ground and pound offense the last few years, cause he’s had a guy in Fitzgerald who is terrible at passing and a struggling underdeveloped Franks. I’m actually looking forward to when he finally has a guy who can run it and throw it equally as well, so he can finally open up his entire playbook.

  2. Recruiting the skill positions gets all the airplay, but filling roster holes with big uglies is the key to future success. Great continuation of the new Mullen era that will build the team from the ground up. CDM knows how to build a championship team.

  3. As a Lakelander, I am ultra proud of my three Lakeland Gator Naughts who just won the state 7A H.S. Championship and have signed with the Gators to bring another national championship home to the Swamp.
    Each of them will be a difference maker at their position and dominate on their side of the ball.
    Go Gators!