Nick Buchanan’s 2018 season was supposed to be a trial by fire in a sense.
Buchanan, a 6-foot-3 redshirt junior offensive lineman out of Dunwoody, Georgia, emerged as Florida’s starting center in the offseason, with much of the credit due to his intelligence on and off of the football field. Buchanan’s future looked promising, but as any SEC offensive lineman will tell you, those first collegiate experiences can be a learning process, to say the least.
Yet Buchanan, who has started all six games at center this season after seeing action in just three games since his arrival in 2015, has progressed each week under new offensive line coach John Hevesy with little to no setbacks, and it’s showing on Saturdays.
Following Tuesday’s practice, Buchanan concurred with the outside perspective that he has improved week in and week out, saying the game has become slower, thus allowing him to sniff out reads more quickly.
“I’m starting to see looks easier and faster. Everything’s coming together. I start remembering looks, things aren’t new every time from now on. I start putting things in the bank and building on other things,” Buchanan said. “I would say I’ve got more comfortable, but you can’t get too comfortable when you’re in this league. Because as soon as you get comfortable, somebody hits you right in the face.”
Florida was the one doing the face-smacking in Saturday’s 27-19 victory over LSU, a contest that featured arguably the toughest front seven the Gators offensive line has faced to date.
“They definitely came out, they were ready, but we were ready, too,” Buchanan said. “ It was a battle, it was a war, it was a fight.”
Rather than partake in an extended celebration, the Gators quickly cut the festivities short and returned to business as usual Monday.
“Really, I’ve just seen us coming out with a mindset every day in practice to really get better at our technique and fundamentals,” Buchanan said. “To really take the small steps and do the little things right, and then that shows up on Saturday.”
And the team has been made more than aware of just what those little things are, as Buchanan’s position coach hasn’t shied away when pressed how the offensive line needs to improve, especially when it comes to UF’s run-blocking.
“We got to be able to move people off the ball and knock people back more than we did,” Hevesy said. “LSU is good up front, big up front, but to me our pads have to be low and we have to be able to knock people off the ball to run inside zone better than we do.”
Although the Commodores, who sit at 3-3 coming into the weekend, aren’t close to LSU’s stature from a defensive perspective, Buchanan and the Gators aren’t letting their guard down. In the eyes of Florida’s starting center, with attention to detail comes victory.
“You talk about the trap game, but if you don’t take care of the little things, take care of your fundamentals, then really everything is a trap game, no matter who you’re playing,” Buchanan said. “It’s not about Vandy, it’s not about what they do, it’s about us. If we can go out there and execute, then we’ll win.”