Coming into the college football season, much of the discussion centered around Florida’s work-in-progress offensive line, with many speculating that the Gators would struggle at the line of scrimmage.
After five games this season, it’s clear those concerns were warranted.
Following Florida’s 38-0 win over Towson, UF coach Dan Mullen called out the play of his offensive line, saying the unit’s current performance level isn’t cutting it.
“I challenged them. That has got to improve. That has got to improve for us. The mental toughness of the offensive line in their preparation has got to improve. Those guys have got to,” Mullen said.”I know John (Hevesy) gets on them. They’re young guys. They go, ‘Coach, I’m working.’ No, you’re not, obviously not, because if you were working we wouldn’t have missed assignments, so what you’re doing is not enough. They need to do more.”
And if the Gators hope to win a top-10 match-up on Homecoming against Auburn, it’ll require a greater attention to detail, which Mullen admitted will necessitate preparation away from the field and outside the confines of Florida’s practice facility.
Mullen didn’t mince words as he continued, saying that if the current unit won’t cut it, the Gators are prepared to look elsewhere, whether it be on the recruiting trail or through the transfer portal.
“If you want to keep doing the same thing over and over again, you’re not going to improve. What are you doing at night? Everybody learns differently. Are you walking it through in the dorm at night? Are you drawing it? Are you watching film?,” Mullen said. “Everybody learns in a different way, OK. And guys have got to learn what’s the best way they learn, what’s the best way they can improve at processing information as they get going, and they’ve got to do it. And if they don’t, then they’re not going to get better, and then we’ve got to find somebody that can.”
With the right side of the offensive line struggling, the Gators brought Richard Gouraige in at left guard and slid Brett Heggie to right guard in place of redshirt freshman Chris Bleich. What resulted was 160 rushing yards Saturday — not a bad result, but a subpar total considering Towson entered Saturday’s contest allowing more than 200 rushing yards per game this season.
Mullen said Gouraige has continued to improve after a strong preseason camp, which has led to the recent spike in action, and it’ll be important for the Gators to continue utilizing him in order to establish depth in the ranks.
Considering the current crop has left much to be desired, the development of Florida’s inexperienced offensive linemen may determine the team’s ceiling on offense.
Before Auburn, which boasts the nation’s No. 19-ranked rushing defense, arrives in Gainesville, Mullen is hoping the Gators embrace the challenge in practice.
“I want to roll guys through. Richard has done a really good job for us. I want to be able to roll guys through. We’d like to be able to maybe get some other guys in a little bit earlier too and maybe get a couple different combinations in there,” Mullen said. “Again, the game was pretty quick, we only got 60 plays, we didn’t have a chance to do that. Richard’s really shown improvement, continues to grow and we got to continue to build that depth on the offensive line.”