A knee injury ended Brett Heggie’s redshirt freshman season and a foot injury kept him off the field for most of fall camp. Heggie has played sparingly in Florida’s first two contests but is on track to earn more playing time as he continues to come back from injury.
Heggie played in eight games in 2017, starting seven before a season-ending knee injury at Missouri. He was one of Florida’s most proficient run blockers, a true road grader in the middle, and projected to start this season.
“He’s getting there. He’s had a good week of practice. Every day for him practicing, he’s had a great two days of practice,” offensive line coach John Hevesy said Tuesday. “It’s still the same thing where he’s, in a sense, 30-something days behind a lot of people in terms of just playing the game again. The last time he played the game was really last November to now. It’s still getting back into the thing and you see it.”
Florida’s offensive line struggled to get a push in the running game the first two weeks of the season. The Gators are currently 12th in the SEC averaging just 165.5 yards-per-game on the ground. Feleipe Franks is Florida’s leading rusher in terms of carries and yards. That might be the norm when Mullen gets a quarterback like Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott or Nick Fitzgerald on the team, but it’s not a strength on this current team and speaks to how Mullen and his staff feel about the offensive line’s ability to create for the running backs.
Mullen called out the team’s attitude towards practice leading up to Kentucky and questioned their toughness. Hevesy echoed that sentiment, focusing on his group.
“Just being physical and finishing until the end of the play and the whistle blows we’re blocking our guys. That’s been the major point. It’s always a major point,” he said. “It’s something that has to be proven not just in practice but in the game. The whistle blows and you’re blocking your guy. Where’s the ball at? Where’s the running back? Don’t worry about that just block your guy until the whistle blows and move on to the next play.”
The line needs to improve not just this week but the entire season. You have to be able to run the football successfully in the SEC and Florida’s production there just won’t cut it. Your offensive line should be the last unit on the field that ever has their toughness questioned. Heggie’s toughness has never been in question and adding him to the line is something Florida needs to do as soon as possible. It was hard for the staff to do that when Heggie was in the pit during camp. He’s spent the last two-plus weeks getting his conditioning back to where it needs to be.
“I think everything’s getting better with him because it’s just practicing — not on a bike or in a pool or a treadmill or something like that,” Hevesy said of Heggie. “You can try to simulate as much as you can but it’s too hard. It’s not every day out there practicing in the heat, getting the reps, the physical and mental strain that’s put on you. That’s getting better each day.”
Heggie is doing that and the Gators’ offensive line will be much better when he gets back into the starting rotation and plays significant snaps.