Jim McElwain wasn’t happy sitting in the Dallas Cowboys’ media room just off the field at AT&T Stadium. His team had just lost to the Michigan Wolverines and there was a clear reason, from his vantage point as to why, and it all started up front with the offensive line.
“Well, their guys were bigger and stronger,” McElwain said after the Michigan game. “They whooped us. Plain and simple.”
Called out after the first game of the season the Florida Gators offensive line has responded. In back-to-back weeks Florida has turned to its rushing attack and leaned on the offensive line to win games. A unit that was heralded as the strength of the team throughout the offseason, then challenged after just one game has answered.
“I think we doubled our preparation in every game since then,” redshirt freshman offensive guard Brett Heggie said. “It definitely was a wake up call.”
A wake up call for sure and Heggie, who made the first start of his career that day against Michigan, has been one of the brightest spots on the line that continues making strides. Heggie was named SEC offensive lineman of the week for his play against Vanderbilt last Saturday. Heggie and the offensive line led the way for the Gators’ 218 rushing yards and five touchdowns last Saturday. Following the entire team
“The offensive line has juice,” running back Lamical Perine said. “They’ve had it the past two, three weeks. We’re feeding off those guys. Wherever they go, we go.”
The line’s progression has also helped Florida find its identity. For three years McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier have wanted to establish an identity of a team that can impose its will with a power rushing attack. Injuries and inconsistent play from the offensive line made that impossible, despite flashes of it in 2016 (vs Missouri, South Carolina and LSU). What the line has shown this year is consistent progress.
We’ve shown that the past couple weeks and we’re going to continue to get better,” Heggie said. “Again, it’s our preparation and it’s what we do off the field together and how we grow as a unit together and it’s going to show this upcoming weekend and the weeks to come.”
With LSU on the schedule this week the line will once again be counted on to spearhead the offensive attack.