Eguakun has emerged as Florida's starting center in preseason camp
With the season opener two weeks away, Florida’s offensive line appears to have settled on its starting five for 2021.
It will consist of four familiar faces and a newcomer to the group: Kingsley Eguakun.
The Gators lost their starting center and left tackle from last year, but Richard Gouragie took over for Stone Forsythe in the spring and solidified his spot opposite right tackle Jean Delance. However, Brett Heggie’s replacement at center was still to be determined as UF entered preseason camp earlier this month.
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The job was expected to go to right guard Stewart Reese, who switched to center in the spring, or left guard Ethan White, who was the first-team center last fall before his injury in camp. Instead, Reese and White have stayed at guard with Eguakun (pronounced “EGG-woo-kahn”) emerging as the starting center.
“Kingsley’s really been a guy that’s embraced it,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “Really, to me, his approach since last spring is, 'I'm here to be the starting center.' He’s really approached it with that kind of attitude and mindset, and it shows. With the mental aspect that goes with it, the leadership, he's embraced everything that comes with being the center and wanting to go be the starter.”
Florida offensive line coach John Hevesy credited Eguakun’s growth and maturation for his progress at the position. He redshirted as a freshman after appearing in two games, but showed flashes during his first year on campus and was selected by coaches to the student-athlete leadership council.
Eguakun controls UF's offensive line
Eguakun played in all 12 games last fall and started working to become the heir apparent to Heggie. He learned how to quarterback the O-line and “be in control of everybody.”
“I think early on you saw, his freshman year, you saw had the talent, had the athletic ability, had all those things,” Hevesy said. “Last year, I'd probably say midway through the season you started seeing it. Then I think really during spring, had a great spring practice and you saw the leadership role now at that position being at center, commanding both sides and putting everything together.
“You really saw the maturity in him come out I think during summer. The leadership he did in the weight room, on the field with all the drills they do, and you've seen it so far in camp. I think that he’s got to continue on that path. He’s still got maturing to do, but I think he’s made a great jump in just his maturity on the field on top of fundamentals and doing things as a unit more than as an individual.”
Hevesy moved White away from center because he wants to have “big guards” that can push the pile, and White, Reese (345 pounds) and Josh Braun (342) all weigh over 320 pounds. White had no complaints about moving back to guard and expressed confidence in the 6-foot-3, 303-pound Eguakun manning the middle.
“I just think that Kingsley’s a great option at center, so they obviously want to play the best five. And if that’s Kingsley at center, then I’m good with that,” White said. “Kingsley, he’s just freaky athletic. He’s strong. He’s probably one of the strongest guys on the team, if not the strongest. Physically he has all the tools, and then mentally he’s very good with calls and getting everybody on the same page. And he’s a good leader at that position.”