A month ago, Florida head coach Dan Mullen might not have had as much confidence in his offensive line as he does entering Saturday’s game against Georgia. The Gators skipper criticized his front five loudly, and often, earlier this season.
Even though the team was 5-0 through October, the head coach voiced his displeasure with an O-line that he didn’t believe was playing as a cohesive unit. In early October, he ripped into them publicly at a press conference while the team was preparing for Auburn.
“We get after the guys,” Mullen said. “They got to know the sense of urgency. I think that’s the biggest one. They’re not bad guys, they work hard, they try to put in the time. What they’ve got to understand is what putting in the time means. We’ve got to practice, but what are you doing when you leave here. What extra things are you doing to make sure that you’re improving and making sure they understand that they need to do that. Because what they’re currently doing is not enough.”
Florida O-Line Will Be Tested
The man responsible for the offensive line is offensive coordinator John Hevesy. A month after Mullen’s critique, Hevesey says there has been a huge improvement on the line, and thinks they can compete with anyone.
“They’re grasping it and they’re working together, which is a huge thing,” Hevesy said. “I can actually go back and spend more time in the fundamentals now. So now it’s really a hone back in on the fundamentals. Now that they’re understanding the game it’s, ‘Now let’s be better with our fundamentals.'”
How much they have improved will be answered on Saturday. They are facing a Georgia defense that is No. 5 in the nation in points allowed, and No. 7 in yards allowed. They are also No. 5 in rushing defense, and No. 18 in passing.
Gators Will Look First to the Pass
Mullen might have to go with a pass first mentality against the Bulldogs, which seems to be their weakness. The coach is hesitant to employ that game plan.
“Our most explosive plays on the season have been in the run game,” Mullen said. “That’s kind of a tribute to staying balanced. If we can get some explosive runs, we’ll take it.”
Those runs, however, have been rare, and Georgia’s defense isn’t prone to giving big rushes away. The Gators are 90th in rushing offense, and 28th in passing.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said having such a tight run defense gives him some flexibility.
“When you can control the run game, it allows you to do other things with the rest of your defense,” Smart said.
Smart sounded far more worried about Florida’s receivers, which he said are some of the most talented in college football.
“Fortunate for us they can’t have but three or four of them on the field, but they put them in locations, they move them around,” Smart said. “He does a good job creating matchup issues across the field. At the end of the day you have to cover people and play them, you can’t trick them. You have to go out there and cover them and play them. Every game they’ve been in, LSU and Auburn, there’s been one-on-one matchups all over the board. You gotta win more of those than you lose.”