Richard Gouraige takes pride in new position, protecting Gators quarterback Emory Jones’ blind side

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports

This offseason, Florida coach Dan Mullen had the responsibility of replacing starters at the two most important positions on his football team — quarterback and the player protecting his blind side.

Both spots appear to be in good hands coming out of spring ball. Mullen acknowledged Emory Jones as QB1 following the final scrimmage, while calling Richard Gouraige one of two offensive linemen he feels most comfortable with. 

Florida offensive lineman Richard Gouraige received plenty of praise this spring from coach Dan Mullen.

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His position coach, John Hevesy, had no reservations about moving Gouraige to left tackle as a redshirt junior to take over for Stone Forsythe. 

“I feel very comfortable,” Hevesy said of Gouraige. “He’s done a great job so far, a very knowledgeable kid. Just very meticulous about his work ethic in everything he does.”

Going from guard to Gators' left tackle

The position switch was a welcomed change for Gouraige, who started 17 games at left guard the past two seasons. Gouraige said he enjoyed playing in the trenches and had to put his “big boy pants on” against SEC defensive tackles, but sliding outside has always been the goal and plan for him. 

“Playing left tackle is what I came here for,” said Gouraige, a consensus top-100 overall recruit as an offensive tackle. “I like being on that island and going against the best edge rushers in the game. 

“There’s nothing better than playing in the SEC and competing with guys like that. I just love playing tackle. It just feels more natural for me. I still have minor tweaks to fix up.”

This spring wasn’t the first time 6-foot-5, 313-pound Gouraige took reps at left tackle in practice. Prior to last season, he played the position for most of training camp before moving back to guard and starting there all fall. 

At the time, Hevesy told Gouraige those reps at tackle would prepare him to make a future switch and also enhance his game. 

“The more you know, the better,” Gouraige said. “Getting to know two positions was great because I learned the offense from a different perspective and it slowed the game down a lot. It also helps at the next level because they’re looking for guys who can play multiple positions. 

“Coach Hevesy always told me to be versatile and I just had to buy into the program and his coaching. He tried me out at left guard and then had faith in me to be a starter. Now he moved me to left tackle ever since Stone left. So it’s been a process and I’m trusting it.” 

'One of the better pass blocking tackles in college football'

Florida offensive lineman Richard Gouraige (76) leads the way for running back Dameon Pierce (27) against Arkansas last season (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

Trusting the process paid off for Forsythe, who was Florida’s best and most improved lineman last season. He boosted his draft stock and “quietly developed into one of the better pass blocking tackles in college football” according to Pro Football Focus analyst Aaron Bloch. 

Forsythe not only worked to better himself, but Gouraige as well. 

“Learning from Stone was a motivating experience,” he said. “He always stayed after practice with me to work on my sets. He took the time out of his day just to help me improve my game. So I really appreciate what he did. It was huge.”

Forsythe protected the blind side of Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask, who said late last season that his left tackle didn’t get enough credit for his play. The importance and value of that position isn’t lost on Gouraige, and he’s looking forward to blocking for the quarterback from his 2018 class. 

“I’m excited to block for Emory. I know he’s going to do great things,” Gouraige said. “That boy is fast. You don’t know where he’s running at, but just know that he’s going to get us a first down somehow.” 

Gouraige and Jones have established themselves as the successors to Forsythe and Trask, but now they must become leaders through the offseason and lend the helping hand their predecessors extended to them.“Stone played that leadership role, so now it’s on me,” Gouraige said. “I know I’m one of the guys Coach Mullen is counting on because he feels like my left side is going to be the strong side. It’s very encouraging that he sees some type of potential in me.

“It just shows that my hard work is somewhat paying off, but that still doesn’t mean I can stop. I gotta keep working and building up the guys around me. If I’m doing my thing but everybody else is not, there’s no success. We gotta play together as a unit.”