Regardless of record-setting scoring, Gators offensive line remains a work in progress

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The Florida offensive and defense go at it Saturday during the annual Orange & Blue Game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Despite tallying a program-record 95 points in Saturday’s Orange & Blue Game, second-year UF coach Dan Mullen came away dissatisfied with the play of Florida’s offensive line.

Consisting primarily of inexperienced big men, UF’s offensive line was one of the few blemishes during the day, and it showed on the ground.

The Orange team may have registered 90 yards on 18 rushing attempts, but it would have been much worse without freshman quarterback Jalon Jones’ three rushes for 63 yards in the fourth quarter.

And the other half of Florida wasn’t much better, registering just 68 yards on 18 attempts, good for 3.78 yards per rush, with redshirt freshman signal caller Emory Jones accounting for a Blue team-high 38 rushing yards on the day.

It was a far cry from UF’s performance on the ground in Mullen’s first Spring game at the helm.

Led by 57 rushing yards from former UF running back Jordan Scarlett, UF racked up 239 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in 2018’s iteration of the event.

Granted, the results would have been slightly better if the statbook didn’t count sacks against Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, but Mullen wasn’t prepared to take the glass-half-full approach after the game.

“When you come out and watch the quarterbacks and receivers, you see how well they are clicking, and we need to continue to improve,” Mullen said, “but we’ve got a bunch of practices before we play that offensive line.”

Comments from Mullen, in addition to those from offensive line coordinator John Hevesy, throughout the spring have led to speculation the Gators would look to add experience prior to reconvening for preseason camp.

After Saturday’s showing, Mullen put the speculation to rest, saying the addition of a experienced offensive lineman was high on the team’s list of priorities.

“We still need to hit the road recruiting, because we are not complete at that position yet for this season,” Mullen said of the outlook regarding UF’s offensive line. “I think that for us, those guys need to continue to take steps and continue to grow. We have 25 more practices before we play in a game.”

It’s a route Mullen is certainly familiar with. After assessing Florida’s defensive line at the conclusion of last spring, UF added graduate transfer defensive tackle Adam Shuler just before the commencement of fall camp. A former starter at West Virginia, Shuler seemingly surpassed all outside expectations last season and was a focal part of the interior of UF’s defensive line. Suffice to say after Shuler’s sensational showing, expectations are high for whoever the Gators bring to Gainesville.

For now, however, the current crop will look to continue improving, as they have throughout their time in Gainesville, according to the team’s starting quarterback.“I think they did a great job of stepping up, especially the young guys. On our off day last week, the whole offensive line group came up here, and they watched the film together when we didn’t have to be here. That’s a hardworking group,” Feleipe Franks said. “They have so much to learn in so little time that they have to come in here and work mentally and physically. Even on off days.”

8 COMMENTS

  1. We will be gooder once the new season starts. I also believe that the O & B game was intentionally played with offense in mind. We always hear that defense wins championships, but offense sells tickets and puts butts in the stands. The improvement in the offense alone will keep us competitive and if our defense can do its thing, then we will be in great shape. GO GATORS!!!

  2. Im a little surprised, i thought the starters were looking good but not the backups. still, if the game plan for the big games is built around keeping it close and winning with the two minute drill, and it works, then so be it. no team ever is perfect, and last years perfect team almost lost to georgia and then clemson realized they were overrated and found the motivation to give full effort and win the championship while the bama team still was believing newspaper articles were enough to win games.
    a flawed team risks a loss or two, but that may be ok if the losses are timed correctly. unless your coach is champ, then not so much.

  3. It’s good the OL is working on days off. They need a LOT of work and August 24th will be here all too soon. I hope they spend a LOT of time in Savage’s weight room this summer. The running game this spring, against a vanilla defense, was most unimpressive. They need more strength to better push opposing DLs around come fall.

    GO GATORS!!!

  4. Coach Speak.
    Mullen doesn’t want any part of the the team to think they are good at this point. NEVER proclaim greatness before the season starts. In fact, don’t even say they are good at anything. Everything needs to improve, per Coach Mullen.