Gators have gone from inexperienced to experienced on offensive line
We break down the 2020 Florida football team by position group. This week a look at the offensive line.
A line that was so young and inexperienced last season now is a little bit older and a whole lot more experienced coming into the 2020 season.
The newest member of the group, ironically, is the most experienced. That would be Stewart Reese, the senior graduate transfer from Mississippi State, who started 21 games and played in 38 in his three years with the Bulldogs.
Not only is he an experienced starter, he’s an experienced one in Dan Mullen’s offense, having started all 13 games in his redshirt freshman season in 2017.
So, he’s experienced, familiar with the scheme, familiar with the playbook and certainly familiar with offensive line coach John Hevesy. And that’s not all he brings. He also brings versatility, having started games at both tackle and guard. He’s also capable of playing center if needed.
Next up on the experience board are guard Brett Heggie and tackles Stone Forsythe and Jean Delance. The three have combined to start 48 games for the Gators and now are in their third year in Mullen’s offense, so there is a comfort level there.
Heggie, like Reese, can play multiple positions and has been getting reps at guard and center during preseason camp. Sophomore Richard Gouriage also falls under the category of versatile, having played both guard and tackle this past season.
One of UF’s least inexperienced players could end up being the starting center. True sophomore Ethan White started one game at guard and saw considerable playing time last season and has made the move to the critical center spot, where he has been running with the No.1 offense. He’s a big, physical center who also apparently has a command of the cerebral demands of the position.
White is relatively inexperienced, but he’s been surrounded in preseason camp by the two most experienced linemen — guards Heggie and Reese.
Overall, proven depth will be provided by tackle T.J. Moore and guard/center Griffin McDowell.
Here’s another potential plus: the four true freshmen who redshirted last season — Kingsley Eguakun, Riley Simonds, Will Harrod and Michael Tarquin — have been in the offense for a year now and have gained strength.
The Gators don’t have much in the way of proven depth up front other than Moore and McDowell.
Behind those two are the four redshirt freshmen and the three true freshmen — Richard Leonard, Gerald Mincey and Joshua Braun. The highest-rated offensive lineman in the 2020 recruiting class, tackle Issiah Walker, has transferred to Miami to be closer to home.
Ideally, schools like to always have 15 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster, but the Gators are two short of that number.
Young guy to watch
Former Suwannee standout Joshua Braun, an early enrollee who is physically ready to step in and play in the SEC. The question is, did missing the spring put him behind in any way in learning the offense. If he picks everything up during preseason camp, he’ll have a chance to see significant playing time.
Don’t be surprised if …
Mississippi State graduate transfer Stewart Reese emerges as one of UF’s best offensive linemen and makes a serious run at becoming All-SEC in his senior season. Not only does he know the Mullen/Hevesy scheme — he knows the standard.
"I think they're coming along pretty nicely, obviously one of the hard things you go against each other, you don't know. I will say this on the offensive line, obviously you know they were a really young group last year experience-wise. There's a lot more veterans and a lot more experience in that group. And I think that you see that in the confidence in what they do on a daily basis, their communication, how they work together, that experience. I see a lot more confidence now. What that leads to, we’re going to see when we start playing against other people. But I think they're doing a pretty good job right now.” — Dan Mullen
Possible depth chart
Ranking the SEC offensive lines
5. Texas A&M
6. Mississippi State
9. South Carolina
11. Ole Miss