After a 27-16 loss at home at the hands of Kentucky, it would make sense for the Gators to re-evaluate the starting lineup throughout the week.
While multiple reserves will continue to make an impact, Florida offensive line coach John Hevesy doesn’t believe the team needs to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate the offensive line. Instead, the Gators continue to focus on competing in practice and carrying the physicality into Saturday.
“They’ve got to learn it. They’ve all got to learn it so it’s competitive every day in practice to learn and go,” Hevesy said Tuesday. “The five of them played and they’ve got to learn from it and the ones behind them have got to learn to practice the same way.”
Florida’s run-blocking has left much to be desired throughout the first two games, with the Gators managing just 128 rushing yards on 29 carries against the Wildcats as a result.
Meanwhile, UF’s pass-blocking appears much improved yet remains a work in the progress, and the Gators don’t have a quick fix in the near future.
Many have continued to float the suggestion that Florida insert redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Brett Heggie into the rotation despite his inexperience when it comes to development under the new coaching staff. Heggie, who missed all of spring camp as he recovered from ACL surgery, has yet to make a considerable push for playing time, and Hevesy doesn’t seem to think the Mount Dora native will contribute any time in the near future.
“He’s getting there. He’s had a good week of practice. Every day for him practicing, he’s had a great two days of practice. It’s still the same thing where he’s, in a sense, 30-something days behind a lot of people in terms of just playing the game again,” Hevesy said of Heggie. “The last time he played the game was really last November to now. It’s still getting back into the thing and you see it. I think he’s progressing at a faster pace now that he’s been back in there for three weeks doing it.”
Regardless of Heggie’s progression, coach Dan Mullen and Hevesy have continued to have discussions pertaining to the progression of the offensive line’s second-string rotation. The current goal, Hevesy said, is for the backup blockers to push the starting rotation for a job, increasing the competition at the position in the process.
“That’s part of the position and competitive nature. We discussed that Sunday and then Monday when we got in meetings. There’s ones, there’s twos, there’s threes: who’s making the push?,” Hevesy said. “That’s the pressure we put on the twos as much as the ones. Why aren’t you taking that job? The only way you’re going to prove that is out there on the practice field.”
If Monday’s practice gauged how Florida responded following a loss, Tuesday’s session revealed whether or not the Gators could sustain their work ethic and intensity throughout the week.
Like several aspects of the team at this early point in Mullen’s tenure, consistent work ethic appears to also be a work in progress.
“I feel like we came out with a practice and intensity that’s way better than what we did last week, the last two weeks,” UF right guard Fred Johnson said. “And just trying to, like, attack each practice each week, because the way we practiced with (Jim McElwain ) last two to three years was way different from how Mullen practices, and I think everybody’s adjusting to that change, and I feel like by midseason we’ll be where we need to be at.”