With fall camp right around the corner, Gator Country has started previewing the 2023 football season by breaking down each position on Florida’s roster.
The offensive line was a strength for the Florida Gators a season ago in Billy Napier’s inaugural season. The Orange and Blue averaged 5.51 yards carry in 2022, the 7th highest mark in all of college football last season. Florida’s team run blocking grade of 79.5 ranked 12th amongst FBS teams, according to Pro Football Focus.
Florida’s 16 sacks allowed ranked 23rd in the country, leading the Gators to a pass blocking grade of 73.6, the 28th highest mark in college football, according to PFF.
Following departures from four contributors in Richard Gouraige, Michael Tarquin, O’Cyrus Torrence, and Ethan White, Billy Napier and the Gators’ staff had to dip into the transfer portal for immediate help at the position.
The Gators brought in four offensive linemen via the transfer portal but recently lost Kentucky transfer Kiyaunta Goodwin due to a family situation.
The redshirt sophomore broke onto the scene last season, earning himself a CFN Freshman All-American First Team Selection after appearing in all 13 games while making five starts in 2022.
Barber’s offensive grade of 80.7 was the second highest on the Gators’ offense amongst players with 50+ snaps, trailing only O’Cyrus Torrence (88.0).
The Jacksonville, Florida native was well rounded in both the pass block and run block last season. Barber posted a grade of 75.9 in pass block, which is considered in between above average and good, according to PFF’s grading scale. His run blocking grade of 80.3 was the second highest mark amongst Gators’ offensive linemen a year ago.
Barber allowed just one sack, three QB hits, and 11 QB hurries in 303 passing downs.
“He is night and day from where he was this time last year I would say,” offensive line coach Rob Sale said on Barber at the start of spring camp. “You sign a bunch of Austin Barber’s around here, you’re going to have a good football program.”
The 6-6, 305-pound tackle played the majority of his reps at right tackle in 2022 (487), but did find some work at left tackle, logging 117 snaps at the position.
Barber may not be the heaviest guy on the Gators’ offensive line, but he sure does play like it. I expect for Barber to start at left tackle for the Gators in 2023.
The Gators answered their need in the transfer portal with the addition of Baylor offensive lineman Micah Mazzccua.
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-pounder 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 suffered a shoulder injury in spring ball that required surgery and sidelined him for the rest of camp. During the 2023 SEC Media Days, we received promising news on Mazzccua’s timeline, indicating that he’s on schedule to play week one in Salt Lake City. If healthy, I expect Mazzccua 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.
“Micah [Mazzccua] is very, kind of like Cybo [O’Cyrus Torrence] when it comes to you can teach a concept one time and he has it,” offensive line coach Rob Sale said on Mazzccua. “Some guys got to take notes, write it down, do a walkthrough. Micah kinda just looks at you and goes ‘Alright’, you think ‘do you got it or not’, you know, he’s like ‘I got it’ and sure enough, he gets it, so. Football comes easy to him like O’Cyrus.”
The redshirt junior is back for his 5th season in Gainesville and second under Head Coach Billy Napier. Egaukun is the most experienced player on Florida’s offensive line as the 6-3, 305 pounder has started 26 games at center in his Gators’ career.
In 2022, Egaukun posted an offensive grade of 60.1, which is considered “average” on PFF’s grading scale. The Jacksonville, Florida native impressed in pass protection a season ago, allowing zero sacks and one QB hit in 376 opportunities, leading the veteran center to a pass block grade of 74.1.
An area of weakness for Egaukun has been penalties over the last two seasons. Egaukun led the team in penalties in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons with a combined 23 during that span (12 in 2021 and 11 in 2022). The next most flagged player in either season had just six penalties.
Egaukun was a representative of the University of Florida at the 2023 SEC Media Days and is expected to start at center for the third season in a row while redshirt sophomore Jake Slaughter will likely serve as the backup.
The junior offensive lineman has appeared in 19 games throughout his three-year Gators’ career while totaling two starts.
Standing at 6-2, 310 pounds, Leonard is not the biggest guy on the field, but he has held his own in limited opportunities throughout his career in Gainesville.
“He’s not prototypical,” offensive line coach Darnell Stapleton said on Leonard. “But from a standpoint of how he goes out there and plays and his instincts, he plays big. He might not be the biggest in stature but when he goes out there and plays, he knows exactly what to do, exactly how to do it and he’s effective. That’s what this comes down to. Can you get in front of your guy and block him? It’s all about your mentality.”
Leonard worked to a run block grade of 69.4 in 2022, the fourth highest on the Gators’ offensive line last season.
DAMIEON GEORGE JR.
Damieon George Jr. was a 3-star prospect out of Houston, Texas where he enrolled at Alabama until transferring to Florida this past January.
As a true freshman, George played in three games for the Tide (Kentucky, LSU, Arkansas), totaling 32 snaps at right tackle.
In 2021, George played in 12 games and made three starts. His first career start was against New Mexico State, where he helped the Tide total 247 rushing yards and 340 pass yards. He graded out at 97 percent on assignments with one knockdown block.
His 2nd career start and first in the SEC came against the Arkansas Razorbacks where he blocked for 671 yards of total offense and matched his season high with two knockdown blocks.
George allowed three sacks, one hit, four hurries, and eight pressures in 268 snaps at right tackle. His offensive grade of 65.0 lands him in the middle of the pack for Alabama offensive lineman in 2021.
In 2022, the Texas native saw action in two games, totaling offensive snaps 20 snaps against Utah State.
“He’ll stay outside for us,” offensive line coach Rob Sale said on George Jr. “We’ve got inside guys, but right now obviously we’ve signed him for a tackle, and we need depth there also as well, so he’ll stay out there.”
I expect George Jr. to be the Gators’ starting right tackle this fall.
Billy Napier and the Gators’ staff added their 12th transfer of the offseason and second of the post-spring portal window when FIU offensive line transfer Lyndell Hudson committed to Florida on Saturday, May 13th.
Hudson, who entered the transfer portal on March 24th of 2023, received offers from Houston, USF, Temple, Texas Tech, Appalachian State, UAB, Charlottee, Kent State and more. The 6-6, 329 pound offensive lineman committed to USF on May 7th, just six days before the Brooksville, Florida native flipped his commitment to UF following his official visit in Gainesville.
The most intriguing part of this addition is the experience that Hudson brings to the Gators’ offensive line.
Hudson appeared in 35 games throughout his five seasons at FIU, including 25 starts and 1,564 snaps along the Panthers’ offensive line.
While primarily playing right tackle at FIU, Hudson totaled 95 snaps at left tackle while making one start on the left side of the line in 2022. Florida’s staff has been vocal about position flexibility when talking about their recruitment and developmental process, something Hudson should have no problem with during his time in Gainesville.
I expect Hudson to be the first tackle off the bench for the Gators, which means he could see the field often in Gainesville.
OTHER NAMES TO LOOK OUT FOR
Center- Jake Slaughter
Guard – Knijeah Harris, Christian Williams, Jalen Farmer
Tackle: Lyndell Hudson, Jordan Herman