Notebook: Young offensive linemen’s mindset a positive, Mullen says

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Florida co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach John Hevesy coaches up the line during spring practice. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Perhaps Florida’s biggest question mark this spring is the offensive line, where four starters must be replaced.

Only three practices in, the big guys up front still have a long way to go, but they are showing some positive early signs, UF coach Dan Mullen said Tuesday.

“There’s some confidence in those guys,” Mullen said. “They have a little bit of swagger to them and a little bit of toughness to them. A bunch of them are guys we recruited, were really kind of new faces to the program when we got here, so they kind of take on that personality that fits with the program.

“I don’t expect to be a finished product at the end of spring, the offensive line. But we have 25 more practices in the fall before they need to be. The positive thing, I haven’t seen a mindset of any timidness, any shyness, any lack of confidence. I see guys working, trying to do it and trying to build their confidence.”

Four true freshmen are competing for playing time on the offensive line — Michael Tarquin, Kingsley Eguakun, Will Harrod and Ethan White. They have been getting reps with the No. 2 offense, which seems to have accelerated their learning curve, Mullen said.

“There’s installs going on and I looked out with one series with the twos and there’s a redshirt freshman and four basically high school kids out there,” Mullen said. “They’re in their third install in three practices and going against defenses that are probably well advanced of anything they’ve ever seen before.

“They have picked it up a little bit faster. I think that happens a lot when they’re forced to play up. When young guys are forced to play with the ones or the twos and with other players around them there’s that kind of sense of urgency and they end up picking things up quicker. They’ve done a great job.

“We’ll get into install four today. It’s not like it’s slowing down and to see when they hit that mental wall.”

Steele being tested

Speaking of the early enrollees, true freshman cornerback Chris Steele continues to get extensive reps with the No. 1 defense. He appears to be setting himself up for playing time in the fall.

“One of the things, we have a veteran receiver corps so he’s going to be going against some pretty good receivers. And I think that will help as time goes on,” Mullen said. “He’s running with the one defense at times. When you’re practicing up at that level, you’re looking around, those guys are going to want to hold you to that standard of what’s expected.

“That can increase your sense of urgency, increase your performance on the field. Also, build a confidence in him as he moves forward that, ‘I’ve gone against good players, I’ve done it at practice against some really good guys and have been put in those situations so when the game time comes, I’m ready to play as a freshman.’ ”

Burney transitioning to LB

Amari Burney, who saw playing time in the secondary as a true freshman last season, has made a permanent move to linebacker, where he has been working with the No. 1 defense this spring.

“He’s a very athletic guy that has grown,” Mullen said. “We love to be athletic on defense. And he brings a great deal of athleticism to the defense as he’s growing into the position. You’re starting to see his comfort.

“He was playing (safety) for us last season and was very comfortable playing in space. He can run people down. At linebacker, it’s important to have that athleticism to be able to make plays in space. You see a guy that is getting comfortable with the fits in tight in between tackles. As he gets comfortable with that, he’ll end up becoming an excellent linebacker.”

Burney is playing in the outside linebacker position vacated by Vosean Joseph, who declared for the NFL draft.

12 COMMENTS

  1. “I haven’t seen….any timidness, shyness, lack of confidence”.

    What a difference from last year, and look how they turned out by the end of the season. These guys have got to be ready to go for Miami, who I would say is probably over-confident if anything; any road, they must gel into an SEC championship level unit early on. It sounds like they’re off to a good start, I’m pretty certain if they weren’t, CDM would not have said what he said. If all true, I’ll say it again: 2020 is the year of the Gator. We need to be at least 10-2 for the regular season in 2019, and with another good bowl win 12-2.

    One game at a time, one season at a time. GO GATORS! 🐊

    • CDM is a straight shooter, example last years missouri mess, when everyone was furious with franks, he pointed out to the hundredth of a second how little time the line was giving the qbs. looks like the team will be better. that may not translate to a better record or a higher ranking, but this sounds like a better team.

    • I believe he is speaking truth! I love the idea of an oline with some swagger. When was the last time we went into a season with that? How great would it be to have a line that looks over at the defensive line and starts to drool, thinking, “Dinner is served!”

      I do believe ours guys developed some last year as the season went on and we started to stack up 300 yard rushing performances, though.

      • I’ve never been offended by “cocky” or “swagger”, Jaws — as long as the troops really are that good. Not arrogant, mind you, but cocky is good. I think we’ve got most of that stepping on our own poncho liners out of the way now, so bring on the swagger!

        • It looks as though our “Orange and Blue Army” are taking their basic training quite well. You fight as you train and you play as you practice. The mindset of these young men on the O-line is almost mandatory to become a great O-linemen. They have to have a level of meanness in them to hate the opposing D-line and want to pancake them like an M1A1 Tank. If we continue to receive positive updates like this one, then we may begin to develop expectations…LOL. GO GATORS!!!

  2. Positive mindset comes from the coaches (all of them) attitude and culture they have instilled. Under the last regime the coaches were not capable of instilling this. The positive attitude of the OL I would bet is mirrored in all the squads. They are still going to lose a few but I don’t think they will have a dip like last year. Trust in their leaders (competent ones) is what will get them to the big dance. Coaches will make mistakes too but making a error based on the facts as they knew it vs incompetence is a huge difference. I think the players saw that last year particularly the returning players, the freshmen have the culture shock of going from HS to College.