Line holds key to Florida’s revamped offense

23
2003
The Gators are in need of improved play on the offensive line. [Lauren Bacho/Staff photographer]

In what has become an annual search for their lost offense, the Florida Gators have found themselves in a similar predicament each and every time.

For the offense to be better, the quarterback has to be better.

For the quarterback to be better, the line has to be better.

It sounds simple enough, but the Gators always seem to have a disconnect at those critical junctures.

So, this is what happens every fall: the line falters, the quarterback falters, the offense fails.

The hope in 2018 is that with a new offensive head coach, a new offensive line coach and a bunch of returning players, that Gators will be able to make that key connection and the offense will finally return, resulting in lots of yards and points.

Like it used to be when Dan Mullen was the offensive coordinator at Florida.

“This is the year that the offense gets turned around,” senior offensive tackle Martez Ivey said. “There’s a different atmosphere. A different energy. Coach Mullen’s offense has all sorts of reads and options.”

Mullen’s offense does have multiple options. But for those options to work, the quarterback is going to need time and the running backs are going to need room.

So, it all starts up front. If the big guys can block people and carry out their assignments, the offense has a chance to go.

If they struggle like they have in the past, it might not matter what kind of talent the Gators have at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.

“Our offensive line, they have gotten a lot better under coach John Hevesy,” sophomore running back Adarius Lemons said. “He’s really hard on those guys and I like that, because in order for us to (successfully) run plays you have to have a (good) line.

So, the linemen are key. With no line — no running backs, no quarterback, no nothing. Hevesy is doing a really good job with the linemen.”

Over the course of preseason camp, the offense has seemed to make steady progress.

The quarterbacks — and the offense in general — were more productive in the second scrimmage than the first, with the Gators going up and down the field more consistently.

That must mean one thing: the offensive line is starting to do its job.

“Yeah, we’re getting there,” Mullen said. “We’re getting there. I don’t know if I’m 100-percent comfortable with it yet, but I think we’re getting there.

“I think that’s still a part where we need those guys to continue to accelerate.”

The line was supposed to be a team strength last season, but wasn’t. Most of those guys are back, including Ivey and fellow seniors Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson, along with the other starters from a year ago — T.J. McCoy, Jawaan Taylor and Brett Heggie.

The linemen say things will be different this season because of the way they’ve come together in Mullen’s offense under Hevesy.

“Maturity (is the difference), and I think more of a brotherhood,” Jordan said. “We’ve been doing a lot of team bonding stuff and we’ve been bonding as an offensive line. Kind of being able to jell together more. And I think maturity just because all of us have been through it three, four years. I think those things being together can be a really good thing for us.”

If a more mature, more physical, offensive line can hold its own, the Gators appear to have the skill players to turn the offense around in Mullen’s first season.

UF is deep and talented at running back, led by Jordan Scarlett, Malik Davis, Lamical Perine, Lemons and two highly rated true freshmen — Dameon Pierce and Iverson Clement.

Mullen says he wants to establish a power running game — and the backs like to hear that.

“We pound the rock and he wants to make sure we establish the run game in every game,” Scarlett said. “I feel like that’s a key to winning games. If you can run the ball, you can control the game.”

In the passing game, the Gators received a considerable upgrade with the addition of wide receiver transfers Van Jefferson (Ole Miss) and Trevon Grimes (Ohio State). Those join some other experienced receivers, including Tyrie Cleveland, Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain, along with tight end C’yontai Lewis.

“I feel like we’re going to explode this year because we have a lot of talented guys,” Cleveland said. “We have size and power and I feel like we’re just going to take that next step.”

The Gators are planning to pound the ball and pass it.

To be successful at both, the big guys up front have to come through.

“As we go, the offense goes,” Ivey said.

23 COMMENTS

  1. The line is the key to every offense, give me a superior line and average skill positions and I will mostly defeat you. Without a good line the skill players don’t have the time to be effective, simple!!!

  2. IMO This line of reasoning maybe focuses on the line more negatively than what the truth really is. I think the line was a lot better in the run game once we finally moved on from champ. if the skill guys can play, that cleans up a lot of things, and if they cant, it exposes a lot. I suspect there is plenty of both to work on. I look forward to both the line, the quarterbacks, the coaching (particularly in handling blitzes) and the receivers all being better.

  3. I’m too sure about the line making the team better, I think it’s the QB in most cases. Many time I have seen teams especially fla because I follow them, struggling and a change in the QB makes a world of a difference in the team. Last year National championship game.

    • Like Robbie wrote, without the O line giving the QB time to throw or space for the RB’s to run it doesn’t matter who is throwing the ball or who is carrying the football. If you are running for your life bad things happen. Regarding the national championship game: Bama consistently has one of the best offensive lines in the country. As a result an average, at best, passer like Jalen Hurts is 26-2. Tau made some nice throws but that’s not why Bama won the NC. Football is won in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Bad O line or bad D line equals a bad season.

  4. I love hearing that the OL players feel they are better. I will believe it when they line up and start to control the line of scrimmage, as a championship caliber OL should do. And this line has the talent to be championship caliber; just do it, starting game one. Talking time is almost over. Proving time is almost here. Go Gators.

  5. And QBs, you guys need to start helping the OL out by making excellent pre-snap reads, making quick set ups in the pocket, making quick progressions, and making consistent and accurate deliveries and check downs (instead of taking sacks) of the ball to receivers. Go Gators.

    And RBs, you guys need to start helping the OL out by hitting the holes quickly run plays and picking up blitzes on pass plays.

    And WRs, you guys need to start helping the OL by getting quickly off press coverages, running consistent and quality routes, blocking well, and consistently catching the ball when it is thrown to you, especially on “money downs”; actually, “savage time”.

    And defense, help all the above out (and yourselves out) by getting many more three and outs and many, many more turnovers for them and you.

    Go Gators.

        • 6, I’ve been busy with work. I’m old, but not yet retired. Anyway, I understand that when you retire you end up working harder than ever, so I may delay retiring for as long as I can.

          I’ve been reading articles and enjoying the comments as always, just not taking the time to comment myself. I always use my real name with my comments, so if I say something dumb (which happens more often than I’d like), I have to own it.

          I’ve noticed your tech skills seem to be improved with the changing of your profile pics and the addition of emojis. Kudos to you, sir! You’re either learning new skills or learning how properly utilize your grandchildren.

          BTW, I replied to another of Tampa’s posts below. Hope I don’t make him angry!

          • Well, just the same it’s really good to hear from you again. Have missed your on-point perspectives, bud. You’re right about the retirement – work nexus tho — one of the hardest things about it is learning to throw the switch to the “off” position, or at least to the “slower” setting. I think the reason for that is because at that point, after being a Type-A (even without anger) for so long, we’re more scared to death of boredom than anything else. I swear, I still got up at 0330 every morning for the first year, at least….but believe it or not, that eventually takes care of itself.

            Hey, on the high-tech stuff, I’d like to thank all the little people who believed in me on my way up (😜). but in truth I owe it all to Gator65, who mentored my tired backside all the way.

            Be sure to start posting again more regularly once we get going….

  6. Everybody seems to forget how badly Mullen’s offense struggled his first year at Florida? Does anyone remember the coaches meeting at Meyers house the day after I believe the LSU game where they considered scrapping the spread offense because Chris Leak wasnt a spread qb and the offense was stinking on ice??? Even in 06 the offense struggled. That team was totally carried by the defense and special teams. This is a new coaches first year. I believe the offense is going to struggle WAY more than the average Gator fan is expecting.

    • I remember having a winning record and beating our rivals. I believe we have a more favorable schedule this year too. There seems to be enough talent on defense this year to carry us through some growing pains on offense

    • Most realistic Gator fans are looking for something that resembles an offense. We’ve suffered with no offense for the better part of 10 years. The product that has trotted out on the field has been no fun to watch. I don’t think any realistic Gator fan is expecting much more than 8 wins this season. 7 wins is probably what we are looking at. Like I said, we just want to see improvement this year. Year 3 under Mullen is when expectations will really ramp up.

    • LT. One thing you failed to mention during your out of context post is that the SEC was not an offensive conference in 2005. In fact, Auburn had the highest ranked offense in the SEC that year and they were only ranked 29th in the country in offense. Georgia has the second best offense and was rated 40th on offense. LSU was next at 43rd in the nation on offense. And Alabama, by the way, was rated 80th in the country on offense. And the 5th best offense in the SEC that year was Florida, at 49th. And the other thing you failed to mention was how good the SEC was on defense that year. Alabama had the #1 defense in the country, followed by LSU at 3, Auburn at 6, Georgia at 8. Florida had only the 18th best defense in the country. And the 2005 season laid the foundation for the Gators winning the 2006 national title with Mullen at the OC, which led him to getting the MSU job and have enormous success, history setting success at MSU. And finally, Mullen is not the same coach as he was in 2005. Not even close. And this team is nothing like the 2005 team either. 2005 has nothing to do with 2018 concerning Mullen or the Florida Gators. But a good negative try, sir. But no go, sir.

      • Tampa, I think you and LT are both right. You make good points about 2005 laying the foundation and Mullen being a different coach today. But my memory says LT is correct when he says the 2005 offense “struggled”.

        You mention rankings, and I’m sure you’ve done your homework, so I know those rankings are correct. However, offensive and defensive rankings can be deceptive, because they’re based on averages. A team can feast on the cupcakes and struggle with the good opponents and still have a high ranking average.

        In 2004, under Zook and Larry Fedora, Chris Leak threw for 3,197 yards and 29 TD’s with a passer rating of 144.9. In 2005, under Meyer and Mullen, Leak threw for 2,639 yards and 20 TD’s with a passer rating of 136.5. The passing offense declined by about 60 yards per game, and the ground game declined by about 9 yards per game. I know that some of that had to do with the difference in offensive scheme and the players having to learn a new offensive scheme. Still, there was a decline in offensive production just as LT said.

        I don’t know Dan Mullen personally, but I like his style and his enthusiasm. I don’t care for his offensive scheme, but at this point, the offensive production certainly can’t be worse than what we’ve had. My concern is that even with Nick Fitzgerald at QB, MSU’s passing offense was only marginally better than UF’s last season. If the Gators can’t successfully throw the ball in the 10 – 20 yard range downfield, I just don’t think they’re going to have the offensive success everyone is hoping for ( I know. I ended a sentence with a preposition … “for which everyone is hoping” ). On the other hand, if they can run for 250 yards per game and throw for 150, I’ll be elated. Go Gators!

  7. Seems like a lot of the same hope and optimism we’ve heard for a few years now. Time to finally step up and prove it otherwise Robbie can simply copy this article and post it next year. I’m hoping Mullen and Hevesy are the reasons it won’t be. Go Gators.

    Is it game day yet?

  8. I’ve said it several times before (re: this season), and I will say it again. I agree with the author – for the Gator offense to consistently succeed the Gator O-line must get it done. The time for talk is over – the time for action is at hand. When the battle in the trenches, and we will win the war. Now is the time to leave the past behind and claim the future. The Gator Nation is waiting – show them what you have learned, how much you have improved, and above all GET THE JOB DONE.