Photo credit: Zach Goodall
This season for the Florida Gators will predominantly feature a variety of looks both offensively and defensively, but the most anticipated aspect of the team will certainly come on offense as the team continues forward with a new quarterback in Emory Jones, not to mention sophomore QB Anthony Richardson.
Due to the change at signal-caller, the Gators' offense as a whole will also be more adjusted, turning into a run-first team more than ever before, relying on the offensive line's performance to keep the team in good shape on a week-to-week basis.
Last week against Florida Atlantic, the Gators got their first glimpse at the new offense and its offensive line, rushing for 400 yards. The adjustments the team has made thus far appear to have worked, though it is worth noting that the Gators played a non-Power 5 opponent, making its Week 3 matchup against Alabama a true barometer.
Via David Waters on Twitter, according to SEC StatCat, Florida had 210 out of their 400 rushing yards before contact. That's a testament to the offensive line's play and its ability to keep the running backs clean out of the offensive backfield.
The right side of the team's offensive line has had the most continuity, with right tackle Jean Delance and right guard Stewart Reese as the team's returning starters, the Gators averaged just 2.55 yards per carry. Whereas the team performed well behind the left tackle and left guard, averaging 7.67 yards per carry.
On the day, Florida allowed no QB hits, sacks and barely any pass rush against the Owls, overall a stellar performance from an o-line that entered the season with so many question marks. For Gators head coach Dan Mullen, the experience on the line is one of the reasons why it has appeared to gel so quickly.
"So you see a little probably less Game 1 jitters and being back out there. To them it's not, 'Hey, I'm out on the field, wow, this is a crazy experience.' Their adjustment is, 'We're back out on the field,'" Mullen mentioned following the team's 35-14 victory over the Owls.
"So they're kind of adjusting to game mode, game speed, game dynamics more than just the experience of playing. But I thought those guys handled it pretty well. You see some really good things they did and they missed a couple things here and there that we'll get corrected."
While Florida coaches may have thought the offensive line missed a couple of things, the performance that fans and onlookers saw on the field likely would be enough for them moving forward.
For Gators left tackle Richard Gouraige, he feels the offensive line's communication as a whole has been great, especially considering a few haven't played exactly in this alignment together before.
“It’s going great. Every day in practice, we’re always building that good chemistry," Gouraige said earlier this week. "Every day we work on each other. We always just encourage each other and try to make the best players as much as we can.”
Entering the year, Gouriage knew the offensive line would have to play a bit differently, the team was operating with a different sort of offense this season after all.
“Going into the season, we know that we have different quarterbacks and stuff like that, so our offense is definitely going to change," he said.
"We just had to dial in as a whole offense. These are guys that, these are their strong suits and stuff like that, and we just have to execute with these type of players. So far, we’ve been handling the situation pretty well.”
The Gators are just one week into its 2021 campaign, with plenty of games left on the horizon, it will be something to continue watching as the season progresses.
Of course, Florida will have another chance to assert its dominance against the South Florida Bulls on Saturday, just in time to truly get a good look at its new offense against Alabama the following Saturday.
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