The Gators’ offensive line has established themselves as one of the best units in the country through six weeks. Florida has allowed just four sacks on the season, which ranks T-12th fewest in FBS. At least two of those sacks were avoidable for Anthony Richardson.
Fourth year guard Ethan White says that Richardson is hard to contain because of his athletic ability.
“I think it’s a good stat, but stats can sometimes be misleading because, when you’ve got somebody like Anthony back there, it’s hard to sack a quarterback like that. He can run out of it. He can make guys miss,” White said.
White says that the offensive line needs to be locked in at all times when protecting Richardson.
“With a quarterback who can’t move as much, you kind of have an idea of where they could be, all stationary,” White said. “With Anthony, you have to block till the whistle on every play because at any moment he could pull the ball down and just scramble out of there.
This unit hasn’t just been effective in the pass game; They’ve paved the way for four 200+ rushing games this season. Florida ranks 4th in the SEC in rushing offense, which is really impressive considering Florida is 10th in offensive snaps. White gives a lot of credit to Richardson and the Gators running backs for their success this season.
“All three of our backs are elite, in my opinion,” White said. “Especially with Anthony back there, you have to worry about the quarterback running. As an offensive line, you try to cover things up and let the backs do their thing. Give them a crease, and they’ll be out of there.”
“When it comes to the backs, those are just talented guys,” White said. “You just cover them up, and they can make one or two people miss at the line and just go.”
According to Secstatcat, Montrell Johnson is averaging 4.46 yards before contact, which ranks first in the SEC amongst RBs. Trevor Etienne isn’t too far behind, ranking 6th in yards before contact with an average of 3.02 yards. This is a combination of the offensive line creating huge running lanes and the running backs having great vision and burst.
The Gators’ offensive line has improved throughout the course of the season; We are seeing more consistent play and better halftime adjustments. One of the reasons for this is the success Florida’s reserve offensive lineman have had. Austin Barber has started at right tackle following the injury to Michael Tarquin and has passed with flying colors. Richie Leonard has spotted Ethan White and O’Cyrus Torrence at guard.
“Austin and Richie made leaps and bounds as players individually and kind of fitting into the unit better,” White said. “I think Richie, he’s just versatile. He can play all three inside. As well as Austin, he can play both tackles.”
Having two young and versatile players positively make an impact on a veteran offensive line is a great sign for this year and beyond. The Gators will look to mold their future offensive lines around these two players.
One of the more impressive improvements from this offensive line over the course of the last year is the decrease in penalties. The Gators’ offense has been called for just one holding penalty this season. There’s also been a decrease in false starts and delay of games.
“I think as a team we’ve just kind of gotten better at eliminating some of the silly mistakes, some of the penalties,” White said. “It’s kind of self-inflicting errors. We’ve just tried to eliminate those.”
The Gators’ offensive line will have another difficult test in week seven when LSU comes to town. LSU’s defense ranks 4th in the SEC in total defense and 6th in rush defense.
White is confident that they match up well against any team in the country.
“The SEC teams, they’re all going to be good up front, especially LSU,” White said. “We’re going to look at how they try to attack offenses, but it’s really about what we do, it’s not about what they do.”
“If we go out there and execute the game plan and use our techniques, we’ll be all right,” White said.
You have to give Rob Sale and Darnell Stapleton a ton of credit for the way their unit is playing this season. This team would not have a 4-2 record without the dominant play from the Gators’ offensive line.
This unit likely has its toughest challenges ahead of them; they will look to continue their impressive season.