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Three Questions About the Florida Gators Offensive Line Entering 2022

Three questions about the Florida Gators offensive line that will need to be answered before the 2022 season kicks off.

Photo: Florida Gators guard Yousef Mugharbil and offensive line coach Darnell Stapleton; Credit: Alex Shepherd

With spring football squarely in the rearview mirror, and not much going on in the realm of college sports, AllGators has decided to take a jab at going over various position groups for the Florida Gators and the three pressing questions for each room.

We've already covered the quarterback, running backwide receiver and tight end rooms and we'll wrap up the offensive side of the ball with the latest exercise, posing three questions in need of answers by the time the season gets underway along the offensive line.

Florida uniquely hired two offensive line coaches this offseason upon Billy Napier's arrival as head coach, with Rob Sale and Darnell Stapleton leading the unit. Sale most recently coached at the NFL level with the New York Giants, while Stapleton is a former Super Bowl-winning starting guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both assistants coached under Napier at Louisiana for a period of time.

Will experience across the line enhance consistency?

Florida will have two new starters on its offensive line this year at right guard and tackle, but the left side remains intact. 

Redshirt senior Richard Gouraige (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) is entering his second season as Florida's starting left tackle (and third season as a full-time starter overall), senior Ethan White (6-foot-5, 334 pounds) is aiming for a healthy campaign in his second year starting at left guard, and redshirt junior Kingsley Eguakun (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) is looking to build upon an impressive first season as UF's starting center in 2021.

Additionally, redshirt junior Michael Tarquin (6-foot-5, 301 pounds) is expected to take over at starting right tackle after appearing in 25 games over the last three years due to inconsistency and injuries at the position.

Will the game experience among these four starters, three of which started next to each other last year, prove beneficial for the Gators' offensive line?

Time will tell, but Florida has to hope that Gouraige, White, Eguakun and Tarquin's 107 combined career appearances (and 52 combined starts) will help with communication across the front and lead to an easy transition between former head coach Dan Mullen and Napier's blocking schemes. 

How much will O'Cyrus Torrence improve the unit?

Perhaps Florida's most important acquisition via the transfer portal this offseason, former Louisiana guard O'Cyrus Torrence followed Napier and Co. to Gainesville in January and has immediately been penciled in as the projected starter at right guard for the upcoming season.

Torrence, a 6-foot-5, 335-pound senior, took on a starting role at Louisiana immediately as a freshman and never looked back, appearing in 36 games while starting 35. Having yet to allow a sack in his career, Torrence earned First-Team All-Sun Belt Honors in 2021 and Second-Team All-Sun Belt Honors in 2020.

"I was able to coach him for three years. Special young man, great player, good kid, great teammate more importantly," Sale said of Torrence during spring camp. "The ceiling is high for him. He’s got a lot of snaps and he’s familiar with the offense ... He hit the ground running more than any other player here, I would say."

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Torrence will face new tests on a weekly basis at Florida, raising his competition level by transferring into the SEC. But provided his experience in the scheme and career accolades, UF isn't worried that he'll struggle amid the transition. Neither are pro analysts, as he's emerged as Pro Football Focus' No. 8 guard on the outlet's early 2023 NFL Draft board.

Instead, the hope is Torrence can elevate the entire unit's performance given his individual skill-set and knowledge of the system that he can share with others.

Who will emerge as depth swing linemen?

Napier stressed throughout the spring that the Gators lack depth across the roster, and while that is true at a lot of different spots including offensive tackle, UF has the luxury of a starting-experience guard in Josh Braun set to man the role of swing guard. 

Braun, a rising junior, can play both left and right guard and has appeared in 24 games over the last two seasons for Florida, starting seven in 2021. But with White and Torrence expected to start in 2022, Braun will likely take on a valuable role as the Gators' No. 1 backup interior lineman.

The story is quite different at tackle, as no one behind Gouraige and Tarquin offers meaningful, if any, playing experience.

Will Harrod, a redshirt junior, has played in 18 games for UF but primarily as a special teamer. He was not among Florida's first (Blue team) or second (Orange team) units in the spring game. He has solid size to play tackle at 6-foot-5, but at 333 pounds and with average arm length, he may be better suited at guard.

Instead, the second-team tackles were redshirt freshmen Austin Barber and Kamryn Waites, at left and right tackle respectively. 

Barber, 6-foot-6, 311 pounds, appeared in three games before redshirting his freshman season at UF in 2021. Waites, currently the tallest player on the Gators' roster (6-foot-8, 358 pounds), transferred to Florida from Louisiana much like Torrence earlier this year. Similar to Barber, Waites played in three games before redshirting his 2021 freshman campaign.

Given their inexperience as a whole, Barber and Waites are likely to continue competing for the swing tackle role into fall camp, unless Napier, Sale and Stapleton feel it is best for each player to focus on one side and play at that position when called upon.

Another potential option at swing tackle is incoming transfer Jordan Herman, who is set to enroll this summer. The 6-foot-8, 370-pound Hutchinson C.C. product committed to UF in May and has 12 games of experience, including ten starts, at the junior college level.

As it pertains to center, could Braun fill-in in a pinch as he will be expected to at both guard spots? Dating back to his high school career, Braun has manned every spot on the line except center, so UF may want to look elsewhere for Eguakun's backup.

Richie Leonard IV, a 6-foot-2, 315-pound redshirt sophomore, started at center for the Blue team (second unit) in Florida's spring game. He started a game in place of Eguakun last season and appeared in eight games in total.

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