Florida Gators offensive line coach Mike Summers has been coaching for more than three decades but 2015 was unlike any he had ever been apart of. When asked point blank if he’s ever dealt with that level of youth and inexperience during his coaching career Summers stated simply, “I have not ever.”
Florida limped through spring camp a year ago with six offensive linemen and then leaned heavily on three freshmen offensive linemen, a true sophomore and redshirt sophomore. They line took lumps — Florida allowed a SEC high 45 sacks in 2015 — but they are now more experienced with four returning starters.
“I don’t have to jump in there and be one of the guys in the drill to fill it out. It’s getting really hard for me to get down in there on the 3-techniques,” Summers joked. “So certainly the numbers have made, it’s made our whole team able to practice differently because we can separate drills now and work with our twos and threes at all the other positions because we have an offensive line to go with that group.”
The experience that the players, specifically sophomores Tyler Jordan, Fred Johnson and Martez Ivey (who is missing spring with a shoulder injury) is invaluable. All three were able to handle a heavy workload as freshmen and that’s making this camp easier on the line as a whole. For the players camp can turn into a grind, but for a coach 15 practices aren’t enough time to teach. Much of last spring was spent trying to teach simple terminology and basic fundamentals. Now, with more experience, Summers doesn’t have to waste time on those smaller things and can focus on technique.
“They know what they have to do to prepare and I think they understand a lot more now the speed of the game,” said Summers. “They have a good sense for understanding when we talk about that set is too short that landmark is too short, what the speed of the game is going to do to them when they hit a bad landmark. From that standpoint, it makes what I talk to them about a little bit more meaningful because they can associate to what they did last year.”
A year older, a year wiser, and significantly deeper in numbers, the Florida Gators offensive line hopes to turn from the punch line of jokes to a unit that garners respect from fans and opponents.
“We can be much better than we were,” junior tackle David Sharpe said. “We’ve already got guys taking leadership roles, going harder, watching more film, knowing their assignments. We can become a lot better.”