Gators notebook: Ethan White focused on performance rather than appearance

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Ethan White has shown versatility on Florida's offensive line.

Florida offensive lineman Ethan White has lost more than 70 pounds since arriving on campus in 2019. The weight loss is noticeable, with his long hair hiding the sides of his face, White, measuring 6-foot-5 and now weighing just under 330 pounds, looks far different than he did as a burgeoning prospect out of Calvary Christian in Clearwater.

Even though he knows questions regarding his smaller stature are headed his way, often before inquiries about his play, White doesn’t obsess over his measurements, like those on the outside looking in tend to do. 

After all, he’s not on scholarship to get in shape — it’s just the first step in the process of being able to produce at a high level. 

“Really with the physical transformation, as you guys like to say, it’s just doing what Coach (Nick) Savage and his (strength and conditioning) staff says. If they say go do this workout, eat this way, drink a certain way, I mean I’m gonna do it, because they know best,” White said. “I came here to kinda be coached and learn from those guys, so it’s kind of just following the program that they set.”

Ultimately, it’s how said weight loss affects his play-making ability on the football field that matters to White, a junior who is expected to lock down a starting role on Florida’s offensive line this season. 

“It’s cool, it’s always nice when you see your work pay off. But, it’s nice to trim up and all that, but it’s still got to translate to the field, obviously, and you have to play well and stuff like that,” White said at the conclusion of Thursday’s practice session. “I’m not really worried about the weight right now. It’s kind of just, like this offseason I was focused on losing body fat, just leaning up. The weight’s just kind of a number at this point. As long as I can move well and feel good, it doesn’t matter.”

By all accounts from those who see him toil away at his craft, White has the size, speed and ability to play at all five spots on the offensive line, though so far he’s spent the most practice time working in the interior of the left side throughout the first two weeks of preseason camp. 

“I’m still not trying to be too locked in at one spot, you know I like that position flexibility, so does Coach Hevesy, so I’m not just playing one spot in particular,” White said, “but I have been focused mostly on left guard.”

Amidst all White’s growth, it’s not the weight loss or the muscle gains that have stood out to his position coach, but rather an increase in poise and confidence as he heads into his first season as an upperclassman. It’s something Hevesy also initially noticed last year with White early in preseason camp before an injury derailed his progress and limited him to just four games in 2020. 

“I think really his confidence was skyrocketing last year at center until that injury,” Hevesy said. “I think since then, even watching through spring practice, I think still a little bit, and now through camp, (he) really just hasn't bothered with thinking about those things, and he's playing with a lot of confidence. Which helps the whole group, you know, I mean really helps the whole group. When you've got guys, I mean, the five, six guys playing with confidence really should help those young guys behind them.

Gouraige settling in at left tackle

Redshirt junior Richard Gouraige is aware it won’t be an easy task replacing the 6-foot-9 Stone Forsythe at left tackle, and the Tampa native didn’t enter camp with the expectation the offensive line would make leaps and bounds overnight. 

But Gouraige, tasked with protecting the blind side of either Emory Jones or Anthony Richardson this season, said the group is just focused on daily improvement. 

“Everything's been going good. Just trying to get better every day with my teammates, still trying to build that good chemistry with everybody else,” Gouraige said of the first two weeks of camp. “The quarterbacks have been great, and the O-line has been great. It's been great so far.”

They’ve seen the numbers used as motivation. No. 93, where UF finished the season in rushing yards per game, for example. 

Though Hevesy prefers to bring up a different statistic to fuel his offensive linemen: the margin of defeat in the SEC Championship Game. 

“Coach always comes to, like, team meetings and talks about, ‘We lost by six, lost by six, lost by six.’ The critical details and stuff like that is, like he says, man, it comes down to little details,” Gouraige said, “and we come in every day of camp and try to increase everything and the little (details).” 

Gators' offensive line coming into shape

And the rest of the line?

Earlier in his comments about the competition at offensive line, Hevesy mentioned six players “that have played some football,” but there’s little doubt the Gators will rotate more than six this season along the offensive line. 

“(If) we have eight guys ready to go, you’re ready for a game. You obviously can move up (to) nine or 10. I think you can look right now, there’s eight guys, nine, 10 and 11 are kind of battling … nine or 10 are. They’re battling every day, that’s all I can ask,” Hevesy said. “It comes down to the game experience. As fast as I can get those guys, whether it’s Gerald Mincey, whether it’s Richie Leonard, whether it’s those guys, Kingsley (Eguakun), all the experience they can get on game day.”

For the redshirt sophomore Eguakun, it sounds as if he’ll see a heavy workload this season, seeing as he’s in competition to start at center, the position he primarily played in high school. 

Gouraige and White are each capable of playing all five spots on the offensive line, although the pair have spent the most time in practice at left tackle and left guard, respectively. 

As for the right side of Florida’s offensive line, the starting roles at right guard and right appear to be down to a trio of players: graduate transfer Stewart Reese, redshirt senior Jean Delance and sophomore Joshua Braun. 

Reese has worked at both spots throughout camp after losing more than 20 pounds since arriving at UF by way of Mississippi State, and he’s believed to be the presumed starter at right guard. Delance, now in his fourth season of competition with the Gators after sitting out the 2017 season due to transfer rules, is the presumed favorite to once again lock down the role of starting right tackle. 

Then there’s Braun, who has spent time at both guard spots throughout the first two weeks of camp, said Hevesy. Having multiple players capable of taking reps at different positions on the offensive line should only further improve the depth of a unit that is expecting a lot from several players who have only just ascended to the starting ranks. 

"The cross-training I do with (Braun) is he's going to really be a right guard/left guard. Then like Stewart Reese can be a right guard/right tackle. So they can do different things,” Hevesy said. “Same position on each side or two positions on the same side, so they don't got to really learn right guard, left tackle. They're not learning opposite (positions), at least they're the same mechanics and techniques and fundamentals that's involved by position.”