Notebook: Franks, Perine say young offensive line will come around

Florida co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach John Hevesy coaches up the line during spring practice. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

 HOOVER, Ala. — The consensus among those covering SEC Media Days this week is that the Florida Gators are going to have more and better skill players on offense than they’ve had in a decade.

 The big question now is how effective are all these playmakers going to be operating behind a young and inexperienced offensive line that certainly will see some true freshmen contributing?

 That, of course, is to be determined over the course of the season.

 As for right now, the big guys have been putting in the work this summer, quarterback Feleipe Franks said.

 He said it’s a young group with a lot of potential.

 “They do have a lot of promise,” Franks said. “They’ve worked their tails off all summer. We have guys that have experience as well on the offensive line, guys that are continually working to get better on their footwork, keeping their good weight. 

 “Coach (John) Hevesy does a great job with all that. And guys that are just hungry. We have spots that are open and guys are just hungry to keep on building that depth at that position. That’s one of the hardest working position groups that we have on our team.”

 The line has some veterans to build around, guys like Brent Heggie and Nick Buchanan. But the older guys are going to be surrounded by youth and inexperience — true freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores.

 Senior running back Lamical Perine seems pretty comfortable knowing he’ll be running behind this green group.

 “They have been coming out and playing great, getting chemistry together

on our off times,” Perine said. “I feel like that will help them out throughout the season.

 “I understand (how young they are). You just have to be ready for your opportunity because they are going to be thrown out there. That’s just how the game goes. I got thrown out there as a freshman.

 “You’ve got to be ready for that opportunity, and they’re working hard for that.”

Feleipe’s patience

 Franks has gone through some difficult times in his three years in Gainesville, but he’s hung in there and now has a chance to have a major breakout season in his second season under Dan Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson.

 “He has come a long way,” Mullen said. “He continues to come a long way. Continues to grow, continues to develop and continues to take those steps. 

 “In today’s world, you look at the development, the 25 ranked quarterbacks in all the recruiting sites, in his recruiting class. Seventeen of them have transferred already. He’s stuck it out, and he’s continued to work and stay through different adversities, to continue to grow, to continue to develop, and he’s starting to reap all of the rewards of that now with how he finished last year.”

Chasing that degree

 Defensive end Jabari Zuniga hopes to improve his NFL draft status by returning for his senior season. But that’s not the main reason he’s still here, Mullen said.

 “His mom keeps me up every day making sure he’s on track to graduate,” Mullen said. “That’s the most important part of his decision to come back his senior year, even more so than his growth development in a football career — to make sure he gets his degree.”

Eyeing Auburn

 Perine isn’t the only Alabama kid on the Florida roster who will be looking forward to the Auburn game on Oct. 5 in The Swamp.

 True freshman linebacker Mohamoud Diabate is from Auburn.

 Mullen said Diabate, an early enrollee who went through spring practice, is off to a positive start in his UF career.

 Who knows, he may be in the playing rotation by the time the Tigers arrive in Gainesville for UF’s sixth game of the season.

“I think he’s done a great job. He’s such a high-end character young man and he’s a great academic student. I know the draws of coming to the University of Florida for him and his family, not just football player, but academic student as well, were huge.

 “He’s got a great attitude and a great work ethic,” Mullen said. “He had a pretty solid spring for us. Obviously, it’s making that adjustment and wanting to see how that adjustment translates onto the field as young players.

 “He’s still a young guy, but by graduating early, it gives you that opportunity to possibly get on the field and play right away as a freshman.”


  1. All good news. I am not worried about the offensive line at all. There will be sophomores and red shirt freshman seeing playing time for every team in the country this season. It isn’t that weird. I also have tremendous faith in Hevesy and Savage based on their ability to turn the Pillsbury Slow Boys into a very solid line last year. I am more concerned about team consistency. As much improved as the team was last year, they didn’t show up for the Missouri game, the first half of the Vandy game, the first half of the USC game. I am hoping to see the team show up ready to play every week, start and finish every game this year. We need players to step up and lead in that area.

    • Good post, Jaws. If this team prepares for each game like they are for Miami, we’re gonna win a lot of games, big games. Plus, I and my friend, Alfred E. Newman, have been touting our O-line all summer.

    • Very good point, they often didnt start well last year. This 1st game will be a synopsis of the season to come; I think. i believe we will learn alot about what we have this year. Whatever it is i will be happy about it. More than 10 wins is gravy. sure i want to go to Atlanta but we have the coach we need and I will be satisfied with what he gives us. I for one will not be part of ever running him off with demands that grow with each success. my goal will be what Spurrier’s goal was each year, to make it to Atlanta. More than that is gravy and close to that, I’ll be happy.

      • I fully expect the championships to come. Like you, there will be no running off of Mullen on my part. There will be wins and there will be losses, but as long as Mullen is here there will be PRIDE.

    • All spot on — last year’s squad started from a mental deficit, which was simply that they wanted to “believe”, but didn’t know if they did or not. And then it began to happen. All of sudden they were seeming to get it. They began to believe in the coaching, themselves, the program. That’s why old Yogi Berra used to say, “This game is only 75% physical — the other 90% is mental!”. (Don’t quote me on that quote y’all, but you get the picture)

      • Exactly right. That team early in the season last year was still trying to rid themselves of the McElwain mental stink. By the end of the season it was pretty much gone. I think it’s safe to say they have a completely different mindset now and they’ll be in every game right from the start now.

      • Great point about the difference between wanting to believe and believing. I have to feel that back to back blow outs against two teams that previously blew us out did a lot to cement that belief.

    • we could argue all day about how well the line will do, and not move an inch, so i cant wait to find out, unless its bad. it is my belief that offensive line is the most difficult unit of any team, particularly when inexperienced, and that we will play some very good defensive lines, starting with miami in the first game. also, i dont believe the players being quoted are blowing smoke, they know a bad offensive line from the 2017 michigan game that caused macs final demise imo, although the newspaper told us that group would be good as well. evidently the fsu offensive line coach last year, who was fired in their shake up, has joined us for a year, same with a former nfl offensive coordinator, both as analysts. ok, both had some things that didnt go right, but our kids are going to have top level preparation and conditioning. i am convinced we will have a team that has good mental skills as well and the ability to work around any limitations that may show up with the young offensive line.

      • Yeah if I remember correctly, I don’t think any players were actually commenting how great the line was performing in practice 2 years ago. I think that was all Mac blowing hot air about them to the media.

          • Cognitive filters? You’re giving that waste of resources way too much credit, 6. He had the Saban swagger about him, but did not seem to realize the swagger needs to be based on ability, in which he was sorely lacking.

            I am sure he will be fine with his Chippewas in the WGAF Conference.

          • That’s a good point, Al — I never minded troopers having a bit of swagger about them, as long as they could sure as hell back it up when it counted. I’m sure Ed and 65 promoted that among their troops too — with the caveat of, “If you’re gonna talk the talk, make damn sure you walk the walk first!”.

      • mveal, you put your finger on the OL problem: “offensive line is the most difficult unit of any team.” They have to combine individual brute strength, hand and footwork with the choreography of 6 guys (don’t forget the TE will be a new starter too) knowing what the other 5 guys are doing on every play, especially when taking on blitzes and stunts.

        The individual brute strength, hand and footwork part will be just fine because Savage and Hevesy are excellent. The choreography part can only come along by playing together. Practice work will only get them so far.

        I expect their performance vs. this UM in this opener to be better than vs. the other UM in the 2017 opener because they will have much better individual strength, hand and footwork than that OL did. I was there and will NEVER forget how overmatched that OL was that miserable afternoon in Dallas.

        In this opener, there will be lots of missed OL assignments, with Perine getting dropped in our backfield and Franks running for his life. Miami’s front 7 specializes in TFLs.

        The Gators will eventually overcome their green OL play with superior defense. I wish I could predict now that Franks will give us steady QB play under pressure, but frankly I just don’t trust him. He holds onto the ball much too long.

        Unless the Gator D gets a bunch of turnovers and the O gives up few or none, this UM opener will be close for 3 quarters. However, if the game is close after Q3, Savage trained physical dominance will come into play in Q4, when the Gators will pull away by just running over the UM defense.

        That’s how I see this one playing out.