Florida’s offensive line in the 2017 season was weak to say the least. Injuries and a handful of other issues made the line the Achilles heel of the team. Now, with offensive minded head coach Dan Mullen steering the ship, fans expect to see a big change this season.
Constant coaching changes made it hard for the line to come together and get into a routine. New offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy hopes to change that. Hevesy brings his 24 years of coaching experience to the swamp and will transform this line. In 2017, his offensive line at Mississippi State gave up only 11 sacks, the lowest number in the SEC.
Freshman Richard Gouraige is a 4-star recruit out of Tampa who is one of Florida’s top prospects this year. He is ranked as the number 7 tackle in the country coming out of high school.
Freshman Chris Bleich got a chance to show off his skills at this year’s Orange and Blue Game. Hevesy is working to make the guys on the line flexible as a kind of insurance just in case there are any injuries, and Bleich is great for that. He can move around to several different positions wherever he is needed. He says he already has a connection with Hevesy from Mississippi State, so the two were able to get to work right off the bat.
Noah Banks is a redshirt junior transfer from Iowa Western College. Even though he is a newcomer in the swamp, his experience could get him a starting spot from the start.
Florida’s starting center T.J. McCoy is expected to come back from an injury this fall, and freshman center Griffin McDowell will learn from this veteran starter. McDowell was originally committed to Mississippi State but decided to come to the Orange and Blue side with Coach Mullen.
Offensive lineman Jean DeLance sat out the 2017 season due to transfer rules but is ready to start competing in the swamp. He played two games in his freshman year at Texas, and his experience and athleticism will complete Hevesy’s new and improved offensive line.
Projecting 2018 Starters
With so many flexible players to work with, it’s likely that Hevesy will switch it up quite a bit on the line, but here’s what we expect the line to look like:
At left tackle, senior Martez Ivey will still likely get the job. He is a major asset to the line, bringing both his experience and size up front.
Last fall, left guard Brett Heggie went down and Ivey moved to the inside, but Heggie is expected to be back in action this season so that won’t be a problem. If something does happen with Heggie, Hevesy has several options. He could move Ivey to the inside and have Gouraige take over in the left tackle position or put Bleich in at guard.
At center, redshirt junior T.J. McCoy will probably get the starting job as long as his injury from last fall doesn’t hold him back. If that happens, Hevesy can throw McDowell in. This 6-foot-4 center is a favorite of Mullen’s and should get some play time either way.
The right guard position is a little harder to predict. Hevesy has senior Fred Johnson who will probably start the season, but he has proven inconsistent so he may be replaced with either senior Tyler Jordan or freshman Bleich who has some experience at guard.
Right tackle will be junior Jawaan Taylor, almost certainly. He has proven himself as Florida’s most consistent guy up front. He’s a very physical athlete who has held the starting position for two years, and it’s unlikely that would change now.