Jon Hevesy left the Orange and Blue game feeing good about his starting offensive line. That in and of itself was a feat considering Hevesy and the Gators lost four starters from a 10-3 team and had a second team line that consisted — almost entirely — of early enrollee freshmen.
That spring was a lot for those freshmen but their commitment to getting to college early had paid dividends. They’ve moved from wide-eyed newcomers into a legitimate unit and Hevesy feels comfortable with a good number of his offensive linemen now, not just the original five after spring camp broke. They tested that theory in the first scrimmage.
They did a good job in the scrimmage,” Hevesy said Wednesday about the second team offensive line. “There wasn’t a big drop off so you say ok they’ve made progress now as we get closer.
Mullen’s theory on why that happens is simple.
“If you take a freshman and put him with the ones, he’s going to play better than if he’s with the threes,” Mullen said Tuesday. “One, you’ve got better guys around you. Two, that sense of urgency — I’m up here, I better not screw this up.”
They had just 15 practices in the spring to get the learning process started but Hevesy knew when fall camp rolled around it would be for real. In just over two weeks the Gators will share a field with Miami and Hevesy will have to trot out a line that will be called to protect Feleipe Franks and open holes for Lamical Perine and the running backs. This fall he’s been working to get up to speed.
Hevesy says he doesn’t need 10 guys on the line — surely he’d be fine if 10 guys earned that trust — but he is looking for eight. Outside the starting five of Stone Forsythe, Brett Heggie, Nick Buchanan, Chris Bleich and Jean Delance there are guys holding their own.
“The next five behind them between Richard (Gouraige), Ethan (White), Tanner (Rowell) and Michael (Tarquin) they’ve all made a lot of progress. T.J. Moore has made a lot of progress,” Hevesy stated.
The Gators’ only returning starter on the line is center Nick Buchanan. Behind him there is a hole but Hevesy identified Brett Heggie and Chris Bleich as two guys that can snap and would be able to fill in if needed.
One of the biggest names to keep an eye on is White’s. During a press conference after the early signing period Dan Mullen told reporters that White was nearly 400 pounds on his official visit to Gainesville. If White doesn’t make a career out of football he might be able to sell a miracle diet plan after shedding nearly 60 pounds since he arrived in January.
I couldn’t control his weight when he was in high school. To me he’s not the first one or the last one. You knew who he was. You knew who his mom was. You know how was raised. He just ate too much. We had to get him structured and he had the discipline to do it to get from 393-394 to 337 now,” Hevesy said. “To me he’s done a great job with it and now it’s just learn to play. He doesn’t have that extra 50-something pounds running around and it’s just learning to play that way and stop thinking you are 400 pounds and think more like a 330-pound guy.”
There is still more time to go before the game, more weights to be lifted, sprints to be ran and reps to finish but as the season inches closer Hevesy is feeling more and more confident that his offensive line — the one that has had the most questions surrounding it this offseason — will be more than ready to pass their first test of the season and prove that they’re not the weak link of the offense.