Despite tallying a program-record 95 points in Saturday’s Orange & Blue Game, second-year UF coach Dan Mullen came away dissatisfied with the play of Florida’s offensive line.
Consisting primarily of inexperienced big men, UF’s offensive line was one of the few blemishes during the day, and it showed on the ground.
The Orange team may have registered 90 yards on 18 rushing attempts, but it would have been much worse without freshman quarterback Jalon Jones’ three rushes for 63 yards in the fourth quarter.
And the other half of Florida wasn’t much better, registering just 68 yards on 18 attempts, good for 3.78 yards per rush, with redshirt freshman signal caller Emory Jones accounting for a Blue team-high 38 rushing yards on the day.
It was a far cry from UF’s performance on the ground in Mullen’s first Spring game at the helm.
Led by 57 rushing yards from former UF running back Jordan Scarlett, UF racked up 239 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in 2018’s iteration of the event.
Granted, the results would have been slightly better if the statbook didn’t count sacks against Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, but Mullen wasn’t prepared to take the glass-half-full approach after the game.
“When you come out and watch the quarterbacks and receivers, you see how well they are clicking, and we need to continue to improve,” Mullen said, “but we’ve got a bunch of practices before we play that offensive line.”
Comments from Mullen, in addition to those from offensive line coordinator John Hevesy, throughout the spring have led to speculation the Gators would look to add experience prior to reconvening for preseason camp.
After Saturday’s showing, Mullen put the speculation to rest, saying the addition of a experienced offensive lineman was high on the team’s list of priorities.
“We still need to hit the road recruiting, because we are not complete at that position yet for this season,” Mullen said of the outlook regarding UF’s offensive line. “I think that for us, those guys need to continue to take steps and continue to grow. We have 25 more practices before we play in a game.”
It’s a route Mullen is certainly familiar with. After assessing Florida’s defensive line at the conclusion of last spring, UF added graduate transfer defensive tackle Adam Shuler just before the commencement of fall camp. A former starter at West Virginia, Shuler seemingly surpassed all outside expectations last season and was a focal part of the interior of UF’s defensive line. Suffice to say after Shuler’s sensational showing, expectations are high for whoever the Gators bring to Gainesville.
For now, however, the current crop will look to continue improving, as they have throughout their time in Gainesville, according to the team’s starting quarterback.“I think they did a great job of stepping up, especially the young guys. On our off day last week, the whole offensive line group came up here, and they watched the film together when we didn’t have to be here. That’s a hardworking group,” Feleipe Franks said. “They have so much to learn in so little time that they have to come in here and work mentally and physically. Even on off days.”