The game of football is won in the trenches.
That idiom is commonly used to reflect the way both lines of scrimmages can control the outcome of a game. For the Florida Gators, the offensive line will need to demonstrate early whether or not it's up for the task this year, especially with the changes expected on offense.
Florida is returning just two players that started last season in their expected starting positions this year in Stewart Reese at right guard and Jean Delance at right tackle. While left tackle Richard Gouriage and left guard Ethan White have played plenty, it will be the first time they've played as the full-time starters in their positions.
Listed as the starting center, redshirt sophomore Kingsley Eguakun will be a player to watch as the team moves forward this year, earning significant playing time for the first time in his collegiate career.
"Well it's, I mean it's pretty it's pretty big," Mullen said on Monday when asked about the importance of the offensive line playing well early on this season. "I mean one of the things you want to do is put guys in position to be successful and so you know we feel like the combinations we're putting out there is putting guys in a position where they're at their best."
The idea of putting players in a position to succeed is not some secret, this is done throughout college football, but for UF it will be paramount as the team has struggled mightily over the last couple of seasons with its offensive line. This season will give them an opportunity to put the criticism to rest.
"It's not just, these are the five most talented guys; it's what they do well. You know, is this, is this the best combination for us to be on the field?"
That's exactly what Florida will attempt to figure out as the season progresses, and it will be one of the keys to success given the amount of running the team wants to do this year. While Mullen wouldn't go so far as to say that this year's team was slated to be run-heavy, he did say they want to be balanced.
“Well it's huge, they gotta, you know, whatever we do, they got to do a good job," he said. "We'll see how it goes; if we run the ball, throw the ball more. I like us, I’d love us to be 50/50 balanced.
"That's our goal going into every year and some years we're heavy run and some years we're heavier pass and there's a lot of circumstances that go into that of which one you're going to be. But obviously, you need your, either, it doesn't matter if we run it or throw it, we need our offensive line to be pretty solid."
This season, Florida will be utilizing quarterback Emory Jones as the team's primary passer. His proficiency to use his legs to create plays will certainly be featured as well. As a result, Florida ought to be able to utilize its run game more, with defenses having to cover much more ground than they did last year with Kyle Trask under center.
The Gators also brought in a transfer running back in redshirt freshman RB Demarkcus Bowman, a player that is expected to bring an extra element to the Florida running game as a home-run hitter. The running game will be an emphasis this year, as it should be.
For Florida to have success, especially against teams like Alabama, Kentucky, LSU and Georgia this year, they'll need to establish themselves on the line of scrimmage. The big uglies on offense will be paramount.