Football is a team game. It takes every player on the roster working together as a single unit to be successful. If we hold that statement to be true, than the offensive line is a microcosm of the football team. No other position group requires the same kind of chemistry and teamwork in order to be successful.
“Offensive line is actually the only position on the team that you have to work together to be successful,” redshirt senior center Jonotthan Harrison said. “D-linemen can get individual credit with tackles or whatever but with the offensive line, if you want to be successful the whole o-line needs to be together. It’s just a lot of communication, a lot of bonding on and off the field but once that’s there, you have a real successful o-line.”
That has been part of Florida’s struggle offensively the past two seasons. The offensive line’s inability to stay healthy and build that rapport and chemistry has led to porous pass protection and a dismal passing offense.
Football is a violent game and some injuries just can’t be prevented. However, why can two offensive linemen stay healthy while all the others have had trouble staying on the field? When asked why he has been able to stay healthy, Harrison said it takes discipline to get your body in the shape it needs to be in to be an iron man like he is.
“Honestly, it’s just about taking care of your body. A lot of people don’t buy into that, so the people that do, you can really notice the difference,” Harrison said. “From what you eat and what you’re putting in your body, not all the drinking, all the binge drinking or whatever it is. That [eating right] really helps with durability and with ligaments and all that.”
Despite injury issues this spring that set the team back a little and forced the normal Orange and Blue Debut to go from a scrimmage to a practice, Harrison believes that he has built a very strong relationship with his offensive line both on and off the field.
“It’s a great relationship, great bond and it’s a relationship that goes on past the field, past the locker room,” Harrison said. “It’s a relationship where you’re actually hanging out outside of football, going out to eat or whatever it is, it builds that bond that helps you understand that person as an individual and how to better work with them as an offensive lineman. It seems intricate but like with Halapio, I know that we have the same mindset, we want to move back whoever’s in front of us and we’re on the same page.”
Florida is dealing with some injury issues right now with Jon Halapio dealing with a pectoral injury and Max Garcia with a back injury of his own. Those injuries aren’t deterring Harrison or the rest of the players as they begin fall camp.
“It’s just going to make me work that much harder,” Harrison said of the adversity that the new injuries have brought to the team. “Adversity will be thrown at you every single day no matter what kind of adversity it is and that’s all that’s going on right now. This is just a test of willpower, a test of strength, to see if this will set me back. If I’m going to let stuff that’s uncontrollable – and that’s really not a big issue because they’ll be back for the start of the season – but I’m not going to let something that’s uncontrollable affect my game plan.”
Getting on the same page will be important, but another thing that Harrison believes is important is everyone buying into what he called the “Florida offensive line standard.” He explained just what that standard is.
“We have to run the ball, we have to be able to communicate and we have to build a bond as an offensive line,” Harrison said. “We can’t just be a pushover, we have to go out there with our head on our shoulders the right way and do our job so the rest of the team can do their job.”
Harrison said that the Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville really reinvigorated the football team and got everybody focused on the 2013 season. He and his teammates have used that loss to motivate them throughout the offseason and they are all ready to get the season going.
“From January until now, it’s night and day just the way people have been viewing things, especially myself, and I hope that’s just for the better of the team,” Harrison said. “I can’t wait to get the season started.”