It will be tough to replace the production that former Florida Gators offensive lineman Stone Forsythe gave the program last season, but it appears that Richard Gouraige already has already taken on the challenge, earning OL coach John Hevesy's respect.
Last year, Gouraige, now a redshirt junior, played the majority of fall camp at the left tackle position before transitioning inside at guard following injuries on the interior of the offensive line. That experience, along with the in-game repetitions he received throughout the year at tackle, gives Hevesy plenty of confidence moving forward with him as the team's starting tackle.
"He’s done a great job so far, a very knowledgeable kid," Hevesy said on Thursday when asked about the young left tackle.
"To me, just very meticulous about his work ethic. Everything he does, he’s studying film, he’s constantly on it. I feel very comfortable. He’s had a year, close to [a] year and a half of playing time. Him being in the game doesn’t really bother me because he’s got that game experience.”
Florida seems to be in a constant state of flux on the offensive line. With plenty of players leaving or getting unseated by better players behind them, having a spring camp this year is hugely important. Last year, nearly all college football programs were forced to forego their spring training due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Now, with spring practices already underway, and the scrimmage set to take place later today, Hevesy feels this is an important time for the offensive line to gain continuity and thrive.
"There’s a lot of young guys. This is crucial for them, for Kingsley [Eguakun], for Michael [Tarquin], even though they’re going on their third year of being here. Kingsley, Michael, Will, this is their third year but this is really only their second spring," Hevesy noted.
"To me, this is invaluable reps for them to play and just learn the offense. We’re going earlier so it’s really going to give them all of April, May, June, July to have it really sink into them, getting the reps, getting the live reps, and really working that stuff, and understanding, watching film going into the offseason.”
The Gators starting earlier this year is something that Florida head coach Dan Mullen stressed as an important factor heading into the fall. With the added time for the team to evaluate, and for the players to self-evaluate, it could mean a sharper start for the team as a whole, something they lacked last year.
"They come back last year and it’s like ok, there’s no spring for them to get those reps. They walk into fall camp where we had the kind of walk-throughs but it’s still not live. By the time you finish that you’re into the season and it’s, oh boy. I kind of understand it but now we’re in season," says Hevesy.
"In spring, like I just mentioned, they’re getting these reps during these 15 practices right now. Now, to me, it’s go back after this spring and they can watch themselves. It’s not, ‘hey, see how Stone did this? Or how Brett Heggie did this or how Nick Buchanan did this?’ These guys did this, it’s them screwing it up or doing it well."
The Gators will want to see its offensive line continue competing and learning throughout the remainder of spring, something it lacked during the previous offseason. With new blood, there will be some growing pains, but the hope is to have everyone solid and ready to go when the fall rolls around.
"Now here’s what they have next with the off-season to improve. Now, for us, finishing a little early is April, May, June, July. ...They have four months to really go hone in on those skills and study film and understand, ‘hey, here's the mistakes.’ Like I say we always talk about what to do, how to do it, why you're doing it."