Gators notebook: Mullen confident in left side of line, grad transfer DTs

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Florida's offensive line at the ready during spring practice.

Florida offensive linemen Richard Gouragie and Ethan White are playing new spots this spring, but both have apparently settled in well. 

Gouraige moved to left tackle after starting at left guard the past two seasons, while White has taken over Gouragie’s previous position following time at right guard and center. 

When asked Monday how the transition has been for Gouraige, UF coach Dan Mullen took the opportunity to compliment him and White. 

“The guys we're most comfortable with on the offensive line are definitely Richard Gouraige and Ethan White on the left side of the line,” Mullen said. “Those guys playing those spots right now, feel very comfortable with those two on that left side."

Earlier this month, offensive line coach John Hevesy said White has plenty of experience at center and could move back there, but revealed Stewart Reese was the starting center with guard Josh Braun and tackle Jean Delance on the right side of the line. 

The Gators are expected to lean more on the offensive line this year with their rushing attack, which ranked No. 96 nationally last season. The ground game has improved this spring, according to Mullen. 

“Last year I thought was our most efficient and our best running year, even though the numbers weren't big. I judge things off efficiency,” Mullen said, referring to backs Dameon Pierce (503 yards) and Malik Davis (310 yards) both averaging 4.7 yards per rush. “Three years ago we put up the biggest rushing numbers. Last year, though, a lot of it was judged off efficiency. So it's a lot on our focus. I think it's been good. I think we've got to get a lot better. 

“The biggest thing we’re missing right now with our guys is the consistency of performance, little mental errors, not just on the offensive line but just everywhere. Too many small mistakes being made with guys, which happens sometimes in spring. … So that was probably something that we've got to constantly focus on, is making sure we're on top of all the little details.”

Mullen on grad transfers

UF defensive line coach David Turner raved last week about grad transfer defensive tackles Daquan Newkirk and Antonio Shelton, calling them “vital” additions to the team. 

Turner said they have meshed well with the rest of the players and served as role models to Florida’s younger D-linemen. 

“I think they bring a sense of maturity and they show the younger guys how to work,” Mullen said of Newkirk and Shelton. “Both of those guys have brought an unbelievable attitude within the team and with their work ethic, how they show up, how they prepare. ... I think those guys will make major impacts for us this year.

“You’re bringing in transfers that are going to help, need based to bring them in. Not just bring in anybody. Those were, that was a need position. And the mindset of what we wanted out of those guys was that maturity, that leadership, that attitude and that’s what they bring to the table.”

Mullen stressed that he only brings in transfers who can make an immediate impact and address depth issues, which the Gators had at defensive tackle with the departure of seniors Kyree Campbell, Tedarrell Slaton and Marlon Dunlap. 

It’s also important to make sure players from the portal don’t disrupt the locker room and team chemistry, which he called the hardest part of the evaluation process. 

“We’re not the NFL where we get to go do interviews and combines and check everything out. You’ve gotta try the best you can to get the right fit,” Mullen said. “When you sit down and say, ‘This is where we’re at, this is what I’m looking for, and this is what I need from you. That’s the role. That’s how I see this working.’ Guys look and they say, ‘I fit that. That’s what I’m looking for. This is a situation that I’m looking for and I fit what coach needs and that style of program.’ 

“It’s different than maybe recruiting with high school guys because these guys have kind of been through it. When you’re talking to them about the needs and how it works and how it fits, they’ve experienced playing a lot of college football, so they know what’s going on … [Newkirk and Shelton] have a maturity and an understanding of how to mature, how to prepare, and how to work every single day. They brought an unbelievable attitude.”