UF offensive line key against Texas A&M

In the third quarter of the Florida Gators’ 27-14 win against Bowling Green, Jeff Driskel rolled out, attempted to elude defenders and was eventually pushed out of bounds at the Bowling Green 17-yard line for a loss of seven yards.

Caleb Sturgis then came on and promptly kicked a 34-yard field goal to give Florida the 17-14 lead, one it never gave back.

The play was innocent enough.

Certainly a loss of seven was not the desired result, and Driskel likely could have thrown the ball away to avoid the loss, but ultimately, the play went mostly unnoticed.

However, it was important for one reason: it was the only registered sack in the game.

Despite the liability the Florida offensive line can be at times, it held together well enough to protect both Driskel and the only-making-a-quick-cameo Jacoby Brissett.

Monday, Gators coach Will Muschamp announced Driskel would be the team’s starter when the team traveled to College Station to play Texas A&M.

Saturday, against the Aggies, keeping Driskel on his feet will be a taller task for the Florida offensive line than it was the week before.

In fact, by the numbers, it is likely to be the biggest challenge the line will face this season.

Last season, Texas A&M registered 51 sacks, the most in the nation and five more than Cincinnati’s second-place efforts.

The 51 sacks in 13 games amounted to a 3.92 sack-per-game average, also tops in the nation.

With Kevin Sumlin becoming coach in the offseason, the Texas A&M coaching staff took on some changes.

Kliff Kingsbury, the co-offensive coordinator at Houston last season, is the team’s offensive coordinator.

Mark Snyder, whose most recent job was defensive coordinator at South Florida last season but has also coached five seasons at Marshall, is now the Aggies’ defensive coordinator.

Despite the coaching upheaval, the Texas A&M still boasts its top two sack men from a year ago.

Outside linebacker Sean Porter led the team with 9.5 sacks last season. Just behind him was Damontre Moore, who collected 8.5 sacks of his own.

The 18 combined sacks between Porter and Moore were more than the entire sack count for 26 FBS teams last season.

This season, both are back, looking to build on strong junior and sophomore seasons, respectively.

During his part of the SEC teleconference Wednesday morning, Muschamp joked he had hoped Sumlin would send him some of the Aggies’ practice tape so the Gators would have something to watch and evaluate Texas A&M with.

If Sumlin were to do so, it is likely Porter and Moore would be the main focus.

Each has elite talent. Each has the ability to consistently disrupt an opposing offense.

Because of that, they have grabbed the Gators’ attention, as has playing at Kyle Field, what is sure to be a raucous environment Saturday as Texas A&M officially becomes a member of the SEC.

Gators offensive lineman Jon Halapio said the distractions are something the line as a whole will have to deal with throughout the game.

“The noise, obviously, offensive linemen can be in tune with the noise, and they can’t really hear the snap count,” he said.

He also mentioned Moore, though he didn’t know him by name.

“I feel like they have good players,” Halapio continued. “I think No. 94, a defensive end, he is pretty good. I feel like they are pretty solid up front.”

Much hinges on the performance of the Florida offensive line.

Running the ball, Mike Gillislee needs to have holes created for him to make plays.

As for Driskel, the Gators will be hoping he isn’t fully aware of who Damontre Moore is after the game Saturday night.