As a group, offensive line on same page, but Gators seek individual improvement

A group of Florida players and coaching staff gather on the field during a practice session last December in Miami Shores. Florida went on to beat Virginia in the Orange Bowl. (AP Photo/Mario Houben)

FORT LAUDERDALE — There is no secret about how Florida found offensive success this season. The Gators relied on an accurate quarterback and an incredible wealth of wide receivers.

Florida had to be a throw-first team with a shaky offensive line that had four new starters.

John Hevesy, the Florida line coach, knows that will probably have to change next season. 

“Obviously, the run game, we’ve got to be better all around to get us going,” he said Friday. “We have to be more balanced.”

And the Florida coach feels he’ll have the tools to do it next year.

The Gators will still be relying on those receivers — four of them seniors — in Monday night’s Orange Bowl.

But Hevesy believes that a year of seasoning for a line that will lose only one starter next year — center Nick Buchanan — will change the way the Gators look in 2020.

“I think first we’ve come together as a group. That’s the biggest thing,” he said. “You see as a group we’re on the same page, but individually there’s still things that as you go through the season, my first goal was just to get to that point.

 “It’s always the biggest thing is the deficiencies each one of them have that we’ve got to keep working on to get better as a group. We’re bringing 14 of them back that have an understanding of the game. Going into this January, I’ve got 14 guys that understand what’s going on, understand what’s expected of them.”

The 2020 season won’t be the question mark on the offensive line that 2019 was. It was a struggle at times, especially because Florida had to limit the quarterback run part of the game plan that was a big part of the offense coach Dan Mullen and Hevesy used the previous year.

“The way this progression has gone with these young guys coming up, there’s a lot of potential for next year for sure,” Quarterback Kyle Trask said.

Next year, Florida will be almost as experienced on the offensive line as it was inexperienced heading into this season.

“I’ve got three seniors coming up next year with Stone (Forsythe), Brett (Heggie) and Jean (Delance,” Hevesy said. “I’ve got to tell them, if you want to move on from here, here’s this 12-month contract. This time next year where do you want to be?

“What you have to do if you want to play beyond this year, here’s what you need to work on and focus on, and now it puts the onus on them if they want to go beyond this.”

That’s to take nothing away from a group that played well enough for Florida to win 10 games and be in a New Year’s Six bowl.

Just ask Buchanan, the lone senior.

“I feel as though from when we first got the group all together to now, it’s just leaps and bounds different,” he said. “They’ve learned how to come together as a group. 

“We’ve all learned how to play in that spotlight, in the big games, and just going from one game to another, being able to improve on your technique and fundamentals, and really just get it done, really come together as a group. I’m truly proud of the offensive line that we’ve had this year.”


  1. Count me as one that thinks the line will again be a giant question mark next year. Experience does not make up for talent. I saw plenty of the three returning seniors having their a_ _ es handed to them this season. Perhaps their ceilings are pretty low, and we won’t see the improvement craved by everyone on this board until CDM gets more of his own recruits.

    Time will tell…

    • I tend to agree, Al, but with this caveat: Remember the age group and maturity level we’re dealing with. That year’s worth of +/- experience really does mean something, and often talent evolves instead of striking you right from jump street. But you’re right — we’ll see one way or the other.

    • You know Albert, I can’t help but agree with you. The limitations of “experienced” Power 5 OL’s that can’t effectively run block lie in deficiencies in height, weight and aggressiveness. More S&C training and coaching can only address one of those deficiencies because those seniors are probably already at their limits of height and “trained” aggressiveness.

      Notice, that same OL group was functionally effective pass blocking this season, even when everyone in the stadium knew that’s what they’d be doing on most plays. That’s because effective pass blocking is more a function of good coaching and teamwork, which this group has now had for the last 2 full years.

      To the degree the Gator OL’s run blocking improves in 2020, it’ll be mostly due to CDM recruits winning jobs away from some of those returning Mac seniors.

  2. I agree with what has already been said. If it were just experience that makes the offensive linemen better, than they would be lights out against the last couple of teams of the season and they were not. Some improvement in pass blocking but really no major improvement in run blocking even at the end of the season. Sometimes they have looked better because of the defenses that they faced. Mullen needs to get his recruits in there. Mackelwain and Muschamp did a poor job recruiting on offensive line and it shows. The Gators will be fine once Mullen and Hevesy get their guys in there. Go Gators!

  3. Hevesy said this same crap last year and arguably, we had the worst OL in the SEC this season…. He needs to pick up his coaching and recruiting abilities… 4 and 5 star OL should be knocking down the door to play early at UF and they are not.