GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Little went right for the Florida Gators’ offensive line in the season-opening loss to Michigan.
Looking at the numbers — 11 net rushing yards, 11 total tackles for loss allowed, 6 sacks, 5 quarterback hurries — doesn’t help, especially since the line was pegged on multiple occasions this offseason as one of the offense’s strengths.
Florida coach Jim McElwain on multiple occasions in his press conference after the game said the offensive line was physically dominated.
But to starting left tackle Martez Ivey, there were two other major problems that resulted in such a one-sided affair inside the trenches.
“Just doing simple blocks [and] communication,” Ivey said. “That was a big key to the game. We’ve got to have that.”
Florida’s offensive lines have had this same problem for the past three years. In 2015, the Gators gave up a nation-high 45 sacks. In 2016, they allowed 28 sacks, the third-most in the SEC.
But with five linemen who started last year returning — Ivey, center T.J. McCoy, right guard Fred Johnson, right tackle Jawaan Taylor and versatile backup Tyler Jordan — and redshirt freshman Brett Heggie emerging as the starting left guard after strong spring and fall camps, McElwain had high expectations for the offensive line.
“I know how well we’re going to be if we do our jobs and execute and do what we’re taught,” Ivey said.
Saturday was a rough start. A well-managed Michigan defense regularly stacked the box against Florida and used stunts and twists along the defensive line which caused confusion and missed assignments. In total, nine Wolverine players were involved in tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“I am not going to sit here and tell you that I thought it would be like that,” McElwain said. “I knew it would be a physical game. Our opportunities, especially on first-and-10, and then getting behind the sticks like we did, that’s something I knew was going to give us trouble if that occurred, and that sure as heck is what happened.”
Despite the early setback, though, teammates are optimistic the offensive line can turn its production around.
“They just need to execute,” running back Mark Thompson said. “That’s all it is. It comes down to communication, execution and playing with a little pride. Be happy with what you put on film. I don’t think any of us are too excited about what we put on film last week, so we’re going to come out and fix that.”
Defensive lineman Khairi Clark added: I thought they were going to bring it more than they did. … When we played Michigan this is a team effort, man. If they go down that means we went down too. So it’s just a team effort. It’s on everybody.”
Their first chance to remedy the situation will come Saturday when the No. 22 Gators host Northern Colorado at noon. After that, SEC play begins and Florida will need the offensive line to be ready as the Gators attempt to make it to the conference championship game for a third straight year.
“We’re trying to make a run for Atlanta,” Ivey said. “I mean that’s our primary goal: get to Atlanta and win. I don’t see much effect with that because everybody in the SEC is pretty damn good.”
The post Florida’s offensive line seeking improvement after tough Michigan loss appeared first on SEC Country.
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