Tuesday's Take: Florida's Offensive Line Will Become A Strength In 2020
Good new faces, and improved old ones.
Last week, AllGators' contributor Brandon Carroll projected Florida's offensive line depth chart heading into the start of spring ball.
While Brandon predicted the starters, I'm predicting how good they'll be. This unit will not only be drastically improved from 2019, but it will be a strength of this team. Look back to 2017-2018.
Yes, I know that in 2017 former head coach Jim McElwain was here. Yes, there were problems that had nothing to do with talent that year. The strength and conditioning was poor and top recruits weren't being developed anywhere, especially upfront.
But still, one solid offseason of work under offensive line coach John Hevesy and Mullen's guidance totally transformed this group. It turned afterthought Jawaan Taylor into a second-round NFL Draft pick and starting right tackle in the league.
It bumped running back Lamical Perine's yards per carry from 4.1 to 6.2. It decreased then-quarterback Feleipe Franks' sack total from 29 to 15. It increased UF's rushing total on the season by more than 1,000 yards.
Why do I bring this up? What's the point of mentioning when there was a coaching change when there's not a coaching change this season?
Because that unit had almost all of the same players. What was thought to be a group of weakness became a group that physically dominated the majority of its opponents the very next season.
This is the Hevesy affect.
Now, look at last season, heading into this season. Every position could and arguably should, be better.
Projected starters, and why they'll be better
Brandon has Stone Forsythe winning the left tackle job for a second-straight season. Forsythe was underwhelming most of 2019. His lack of push and poor technique hurt the Gators far too often.
However, he began to change that narrative later in the year. As the season wore on, Forsythe became significantly more violen and turned into a left tackle that moves bodies.
The Hevesy effect in full force.
Next, Richard Gouraige should start at left guard. He doesn't have really any competition other than incoming recruits. But Gouraige was solid all season when he got his opportunities in 2019. The entire unit seemed to be better when he was in there at guard or tackle, and that should not change.
Brett Heggie, last year's starting right guard will in all likelihood snap the ball at center next season, as Florida loses center Nick Buchanan to graduation. Heggie had his first full year of health in 2019, and center is a perfect position for him in 2020.
The center is usually the quarterback of the offensive line, and considering not only his 30 games of experience but also his previous time at the position, Heggie is the perfect guy to set everybody else up.
Right guard will probably belong to Ethan White, who also showed tons of promise at the back half of last season. He was excellent in his debut start against Vanderbilt, after shedding nearly 60 lbs. since enrolling early in 2019.
The only question mark to me is going to be right tackle. Brandon has Jean Delance winning the job again, but will he be able to maintain it after a dreadful 2019 season?
He is the only one on this unit that I am not sure showed any signs of becoming something special, or even average. However, Hevesy recruited so well this cycle, I could see a freshman taking his place maybe a few games in.
Florida's two highest offensive line recruits, Joshua Braun and Issiah Walker, can both play tackle. They are both versatile players and Braun enrolled early.
If either Delance gets it together or one of these guys takes his spot and runs with it, this group feels pretty complete. It feels like a unit that will pass protect extremely well and move bodies in the run game much better than last season.
This could mean that perhaps UF's weakest unit of 2019, can become one of its strongest just one season later.