The Gators’ offensive line was much improved in 2022 under coaches Rob Sale and Darnell Stapleton. Florida’s 5.3 yards per carry ranked T-10th in FBS. Their 1.5 sacks allowed per game ranked T-32nd. Anthony Richardson certainly helped inflate these numbers with his running and athletic ability, however, we saw rushing lanes we haven’t seen for quite some time in Gainesville. Billy Napier’s emphasis on rebuilding the front five appears to be working.
Gator Nation received surprising news when starters Michael Tarquin and Ethan White announced their intent to transfer from Florida. The Gators have lost 45 starts along the offensive line this offseason.
Austin Barber was the best tackle on the roster in 2022, despite making just five starts. He got his opportunity to play significant minutes when Michael Tarquin went down with an injury earlier in the season; he did not disappoint. It was tough for Florida’s staff to keep Barber off the field when Tarquin returned from injury. Barber, Gouraige, and Tarquin rotated at tackle spots throughout the remainder of the season. Barber and Tarquin pulled away as the top two tackles on the roster by the end of the year.
Barber’s offensive grade of 79.3 was the 2nd highest along the offensive line behind O’Cyrus Torrence, according to Pro Football Focus.
I expect Barber to start at left tackle in 2023. He’ll have a chance to prove why he’s one of the best linemen in the country. Barber will be a redshirt-sophomore next season.
The Gators received a commitment from Baylor offensive line transfer Micah Mazzccua on Tuesday evening. Mazzccua started 11 games at left guard for the Bears in 2022, allowing one sack, two hits, eight hurries, and 11 pressures in 759 snaps.
The 6-5, 331-pound guard is a proficient run blocker. His run block grade of 78.5 was the 2nd highest on the Bears among players with 50+ snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. That grade would have ranked 2nd on the Gators’ offensive line in 2022.
Mazzccua is expected to start at left guard for the Gators, locking down the left side of the line for Florida. The redshirt junior will have two years of eligibility left.
Florida’s center has started 26 games over his last two seasons in Gainesville. He’s back for another year and is expected to keep his role as the starting center.
Eguakun regressed in 2022, posting a grade of 55.6, the lowest in the offensive line unit and 21st on the Gators’ offense among players with 50+ snaps, according to PFF. Eguakun led Florida in penalties with 14.
In 2021, Egukaun posted a grade of 60.9.
I don’t expect Jake Slaughter or an incoming freshman to challenge the veteran for the starting job.
The right side of the offensive line still has many unanswered questions. Richie Leonard is the likely candidate to start at RG for the Gators in 2023. He played in 222 snaps and made one start in the absence of O’Cyrus Torrence.
Right tackle is where things get tricky for Florida. As of right now, Kamryn Waites would likely be the starter. He’s had experience at right guard and tackle throughout his time at Florida, but I think he would make a better tackle. Waites totaled 96 snaps in 2022, 65 at RG and 31 at RT, posting a grade of 73.1, according to PFF.
Florida needs to go after a starting caliber tackle in the transfer portal, giving Waites another year to develop his skillset. Waites versatility should provide quality depth in 2023.
There’s going to be loads of unproven depth at offensive line in 2022; that’s expected when you lose four starters in the offseason.
Jake Slaughter, Jordan Herman, Jalen Farmer, Christian Williams, David Conner, Roderick Kearney, and Knijeah Harris could find themselves on the two-deep depth chart at some point in the 2023 season.
The Gators should look to add at least one more starting caliber offensive lineman via the transfer portal before fall camp starts, but two would be ideal.