After 2019 struggles, UF now missing 'very few' assignments up front
No one was more frustrated last season with Florida’s inconsistent offensive line play than John Hevesy.
His unit excelled in pass protection, but struggled with run blocking as the Gators’ rushing offense ranked 107th nationally and second-to-last in the SEC.
That has been a point of emphasis in fall training camp.
“It’s been a big focus to me,” Hevesy said Tuesday. “We have to be balanced. We have to be able to run the ball to be successful. Obviously running the ball, gives us our opportunity to be a great play action team and to be able to throw the ball.
“I think we have great play action, we got great obviously skill guys. But being able to use that play action with the run game is going to help us with that. Without the run game the play action doesn't really help us too much, so I think the biggest thing in the run game is just being consistent.”
Now that he’s had time to evaluate last season, Hevesy was asked what areas his unit struggled most with. He pinpointed the problems to miscommunication and players not carrying out their assignments in a timely fashion.
However, Hevesy didn’t view them as “big glaring” issues.
“I think just little things,” he said. “Maybe miscommunication of a call, missed steps and what you’re doing with those movements, just understanding of the whole offense. Which, again, it's not all big glaring.
“But you saw it in certain situations, in really key situations you're kind of frustrated because you know what you're doing but (snaps fingers) how fast it happens is, that’s where we were off.”
They're on track now, according to Hevesy. He said his players have had “very few missed assignments” in fall training camp and are taking what they learn in the film room to the practice field.
“Maybe it's just sitting for six months on Zoom meetings. They saw more clips than they ever saw in their life,” Hevesy quipped. “So far in camp, I think it's been really good with all the stuff that's getting thrown at us defensively, is for us to make the adjustments. For the kids to come back and when you watch the film go, ‘OK, got it,’ and you see that turnover the next day.
“We talk about learning what to do, how to do it and why you're doing it. To me, they know what to do, they know how to do it. … They've got that now. Obviously, they've still got to go out and perform, but you see the mental part of the game is really excelled for them.”
With four returning starters and graduate transfer Stewart Reese up front, Florida's offensive line could be the most improved position on the team this year. Hevesy also likes what he's seen from freshmen enrollees Joshua Braun, Richard Leonard, Gerald Mincey and walk-on Mark Pitts.
"I think they've made great progress. Richie and Josh had those five days of bowl practice, so they kind of got a little taste of it," Hevesy said. "[Braun] can play tackle or guard. He’s been playing more guard right now. Playing guard is a little simpler and not as much adjustments as playing tackle. To me, I think as we progress he’ll have the ability, obviously, to do both.
"The first thing is they've all came out and work every day, and that's the biggest thing. They came out to work every day and they've done a great job, all of them, of getting involved and really not missing a beat. You don't see a big glare. I think when you put them all together you see a little bit of glare because they're still often trying to figure everything out, but it's really been nice to have all of them."