College football programs traditionally show significant improvement from year one to year two under a new coaching staff.
If that happens at Florida under coach Dan Mullen, the Gators could be College Football Playoff contenders next season after going 10-3 and rising into the top 10 in the nation in 2018.
For it to happen, the Gators will have to improve in some areas and some new, inexperienced players are going to have to come through at certain positions.
The Sun is breaking down the team position-by-position, one position at a time:
Who’s gone: Tackles Martez Ivey and Jawaan Taylor, guards Fred Johnson and Tyler Jordan and tackle/guard Kavaris Harkless. This position group has been hit harder by departures than any other. The Gators are losing four of their starting five. Those four starters — Ivey, Taylor, Johnson and Jordan — have been starting games since their true freshman season. That was four years ago for Ivey, Johnson and Jordan and three for Taylor. The four combined to start 145 games. They were the heart of an offensive line that was a big disappointment in 2017, but eventually became a team strength in 2018 under new offensive line coach John Hevesy.
Who’s back: Tackles Noah Banks, T.J. Moore, Stone Forsythe and Richard Gouraige, guards Jean Delance, Brett Heggie, Chris Bleich, centers Nick Buchanan and T.J. McCoy and center/guard Griffin McDowell. Of those 10, only Buchanan, Heggie and McCoy have started games and seen significant playing time. All 10 have seen the field, even the true freshmen last season — Gouraige, Chris Bleich and McDowell.
Who’s new: The 10 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster will be reinforced by seven true freshmen — Kingsley Eguakun, Deyavie Hammond, Will Harrod, Riley Simonds, Michael Tarquin, Ethan White and Wardrick Wilson. Four — Eguakun, Harrod, Tarquin and White — are early enrollees who will participate in spring practice.
What’s next: Develop, develop, develop. This is a process Hevesy started with his inexperienced and true freshman linemen in the fall and it will continue this spring, summer and fall.
These are young players — and a young line — that needs to be developed over time. In some instances it takes years, just like it did with Ivey, Jordan and Johnson. Other times it happens relatively soon, like it did with Taylor, who became a starter and efficient player early in his true freshman season.
An offense is usually only as good as its line — so this is THE critical area of concern heading into the spring, and beyond in 2019.
Possible scenario: The inexperienced line will struggle in the spring, get off to a slow start next season, but will start showing weekly improvement over the course of the season. Hevesy has a successful track record of developing offensive linemen. That will be very much in play in 2019.