The Florida Gators are preparing to travel Fayetteville this weekend to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in search of their first SEC West road win in almost four years. The Gators are riding a three-game winning streak, in first place in the SEC East standings and are getting hot at the right time as they enter the last stretch of the 2016 season. The cause of the Gators success could be traced to many parts of the team. The coaching has been great, the run game has become the focal point of the offense and the defense is playing its best, but one group in particular has stepped up their game the past two weeks and that’s the offensive line.
The formula surrounding the offensive line’s recent success isn’t exactly rocket science, but it is in fact … science. Chemistry is something that cannot be taught but rather something that comes along when you put the right pieces in place. For the Gators one of the missing pieces to this puzzling line to start the year might have been freshman star, Jawaan Taylor. Taylor comes steps in as an unlikely hero as he was not a highly sought after recruit and had to lose weight to earn a spot on Jim McElwain’s team. Fortunately for the Gators, Taylor was able to meet the goals he set and has earned himself a starting spot.
Reigning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week, Martez Ivey, talked about the line coming together and continuing their impressive play, “We’ve got better chemistry. We’re coming along, we’re gelling at the right time. So I see our progress as moving forward in the right spot.”
On one side of the offensive line you have young talent like Jawaan Taylor, but in the middle and other side, there stands four guys, five if you count Fred Johnson that have played significant snaps for the Gators. Center, Cam Dillard is a senior who is using his experience to help one of the most important pieces of the team stay on top of their game. Having that maturity and ability to lean on veterans is something that offensive line coach Mike Summers thinks has helped this group take the next step, “You know, I think every position group needs a consistent performer that’s gonna be there time after time, play after play, rep after rep. And Cam is that for us.”
Leaning on veteran leadership as well as relying on younger guys is something the line will have to do in this critical time, but not dealing with any serious injuries has been the key factor in the line’s recent success, and that’s something that is invaluable when you look at what the Gators have to face in the month of November, which will include some potential early round NFL Draft talent like Demarcus Walker, Demarcus Christmas and Arden Key. Not to mention the fact that the Gators are on track to play defensive powerhouse Alabama who could see multiple players in their front seven be drafted in the first round.
The line collectively sees the tough schedule ahead as both a challenge and an opportunity; a challenge because of the talent but an opportunity to show that their new found chemistry will translate into a better finish to the year than the previous.