Notebook: Offensive line depth only uncertainty of unit, Mullen says

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John Hevesy, the Gators offensive line coach, works with his position group Friday. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

 Florida coach Dan Mullen seems to have a little more faith in his offensive line than those who have slapped a big question mark on it heading into the season.

 The youth and experience up front aren’t going to limit what the Gators run on offense, Mullen said Monday.

 “We’ll stay with what we do,” Mullen said. “I’m not as uncertain (as some). My uncertainty on the offensive line is depth. If we can stay healthy, I’m OK. And it’s just how fast we can accelerate some of the really young guys to get going.”

 The young players, including five true freshmen, are getting the same number of reps in practice as the experienced players, guys like Nick Buchanan, Brett Heggie and Stone Forsythe.

 “Part of that is for player development,” Mullen said. “The difference between last year’s starters on the O-line and this year’s starters is the amount of game reps they got. They got a lot of practice reps. They have some experience.

 “It’s when you start getting younger guys that haven’t had spring, fall camp, season, spring camp and they just haven’t had as many of them. It’s just a numbers game. They’re just still trying to get caught up.”

Henderson, Huggins not here

 True freshman wide receiver Arjei Henderson and sophomore safety John Huggins still have not shown up for preseason camp.

 Henderson has to complete a class before joining the team, while Huggins is dealing with what the school says is a family issue back in Daytona.

 “(Henderson) is still finishing a class,” Mullen said. “So, whenever that class ends (he’ll join the team).”

 Mullen does not have a timetable for Huggins’ return.

 “I have to check with him with the family situation,” he said.

The future at WR

 Mullen had praise for two wide receivers who are sort of flying under the radar heading into the season — junior Rick Wells and redshirt freshman Jacob Copeland.

 “If you look at guys like (Copeland) and Rick Wells that are really kind of the guys that are going to be coming next in the future,” Mullen said. “After this year, we have some exodus of some seniors. It’s our job to get those guys in the game and get them reps and get them to play and get them experience

 “But also to try to make sure we’re putting them in situations to go be successful. We’ve got to get them ready to be every-down players. Even this year, let’s get them some get-it-to. Get them in the game, let them do some things they do well and build some confidence so they get ready to be every-down players.”

 Wells is coming off his second consecutive strong spring, but he’s yet to do much at wide receiver in an actual game, with only one career reception for six yards.

 But he’s catching the coaches attention in camp.

 “Rick Wells looks like he’s taken some big steps forward,” Mullen said.

 Copeland, a highly rated four-star prospect coming out of high school, was expected to have an immediate impact as a true freshman, but saw his season limited to do knee surgery early in camp.

 He played in three games, catching a pass for 16 yards and returning a kickoff 26 yards.

 He missed most of the spring with a quad injury.

 On the rare instances when he’s been healthy, he’s flashed big-play potential.

 “He’s a little more advanced because he’s kind of been through it in the meetings and learning it and been around it,” Mullen said. “He hasn’t been out there on the field doing it. But, he’s looked pretty good at picking things up. 

 “He’s got a great skill set. He’s got size, power and speed, and he catches the ball pretty well. His yards-per-touch last year was pretty good, so we’ll have to try to get him the ball some this year.”

Neutral site, no recruits

 Florida vs. Miami to kick off the college football season would seem an ideal recruiting opportunity for both schools. But, if appears that if any recruits want to attend the Aug. 24 game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando will have to have a ticket.

 The hope was to make this a game where recruits could attend as a guest of one or both of the schools like any other recruiting weekend during the season. But talks between the two schools and the NCAA apparently went nowhere.

 “I don’t think that’s happening,” Mullen said. “The issue is, one it’s a dead period still. We’d have to get a special waiver from the NCAA to even have recruits come to it and then both teams would have to figure it out. One of the hard things about that neutral site games and having recruits come is just the logistics. It’s not your stadium.

“Sometimes for these neutral site games in NFL stadiums the security is very different. There becomes a lot of gymnastics having to do that.

It’s unfortunate because I know these guys want to come to the game, but it’s just part of playing in these big neutral site games.”

18 COMMENTS

  1. The Gator O-Line is going to have to step up and get it done, staring with UM. I anticipate more use of tight ends and running backs to help with blocking, as UM’s front seven are pretty good and experienced. Play calling to take advantage of a heavy pass rush should help offset the pressure. As for Wells and Copeland, I believe both will see several opportunities to play. The key is making catches in the game, focusing on ball security before focusing on where to run after the catch. GO GATORS!!!

    • Ball security, as you said, is critical. No dumb attacks! Discipline! If you lose it, you better get it back and muy pronto at that. This game may well swing on turnovers. Or, we may just beat the hell out of them anyway, although I don’t see a rout in this one.

          • It will be a first time coach and more than likely first time starting QB behind an inexperienced line. Miami may wind up a decent team by the end of the season, but I just don’t see them putting a complete game together in game 1, which is what they’ll need to do to beat a top 10 team. Look how long it took the Gators to put it all together last season and that was with a QB who started several games and an experienced head coach. Their defense will keep them in it for maybe a quarter or 2, but then the Gators will role to an easy victory.

          • Think we get this one by two scores. 2 TD or FG and TD. They’ll have a good D but they have too many ?’s on the O. Our OL will get tested early and often.

  2. As I have said all summer, the O-line will be fine. Ove the many years of watching college football, I have lost track of how many times a team had to put in an inexperienced guy because of injury, or cases similar to ours, and those guys performed well, surprisingly well. And in many cases what helped was that they were underestimated.

    And shame on the NCAA not allowing recruits to attend. This is a celebration of 150 years of college football, and, sans recruits, there wouldn’t be football.