One word senior linebacker Mike Taylor used to describe the offensive line for the Florida Gators. A word that wouldn’t have been used last year.
2014 is a year of redemption for the Gators, especially the offensive line, which saw constant rotations, injured quarterbacks and a stifled passing game because of it.
This offseason, the line has received rave reviews from players on both sides of the ball.
“If they can hold their own against our players and against what we’re doing in practice I feel like they can hold their own against anybody out on the field,” Taylor said.
A projected starting lineup full of juniors and seniors has also boosted the confidence in the running backs.
“Those guys got so much experience with big Chaz [Green], big D.J. [Humphries], big Trenton Brown, all of those guys, Max Garcia,” halfback Kelvin Taylor said. “I feel like the offensive line man, those guys are going to do great. They’re very smart, our offensive line coach, he’s a great guys and he’s going to have those guys ready to play.”
An emphasis on finishing blocks has been placed on the line, opening up running lanes for the backfield. The line’s new direction is to take a bite out of the defense, according to center Max Garcia.
“Taking the next bite is like if a guy’s about to fall over, you put him over,” he said. “Just don’t stop the play, don’t give up. If he’s going to the ground, just put him on the ground.”
In addition to more aggressive play on the team, consistency is big with the Gators this year. The offensive line was riddled with injuries last season, hurting the rhythm of the position and affecting the offense overall. Offensive Kurt Roper said keeping a talented, healthy front on the field will be key as the line of scrimmage is the most important part of the game.
Currently, the depth chart has Trip Thurman and Trenton Brown at the guard positions, but Tyler Moore has also gotten significant action at practice. Brown has looked good in practice, standing strong against the bull rush and moving players around.
The Gators’ much-discussed offensive scheme calls for a faster offensive line, so to play in a style required of them, the line worked on speed and agility drills, allowing the m to move faster than before, thus allowing the offense to move faster than before.
The criticisms on the offensive line last year were plentiful, as a team the Gators look to right the wrongs of 2013 through a renewed focus and chemistry with players like running back Matt Jones.
“Getting together with those guys it feels like we can be unstoppable,” he said. “So when we communicate with them on the same level, we feel great about it.”