Consistency Missing as OL Prepares for LSU

The Florida offensive line has been criticized a great deal early in this 2010 season, some of it deserved and a lot of it not. The Gators are preparing to rebound after their huge loss in Tuscaloosa Saturday as top 10 and unbeaten LSU comes to town. The offensive line is trying to get things right as they adjust to moves and injuries along the line.

There hasn't been a single game this season that the offensive line has started the same five players playing the same positions. The changes in status along with both minor and major injuries have taken its toll on continuity and overall play of the line.

Seniors Marcus Gilbert and Mike Pouncey are huge parts of the puzzle for the Gators along the line and are looking forward when they can all settle down and play one position for a while.

"Injuries and different players playing different roles, it is hard to adjust," Gilbert said about all the transition. "I think as the season rolls on a lot of players will take a better approach to the positions they are playing and do a much better job."

The different scenarios are mounting as the season moves along and the issues get compounded when an injury happens late in the week or during the games.

"We make some mistakes in practice, but that is what practice is for," Gilbert said. "We try and correct them and then an injury will pop up. Then we have to move a player to a different position. It is kind of tough playing multiple positions for a team like us."

Gilbert says the game plan hasn't changed that much from week to week, the problems along the line are due to the guys not being familiar with each other and maybe the spot they are playing at the time.

"I think our style of play is pretty similar every week," Gilbert said. "It's just the ability to get the players in the right place and position they are most comfortable and used to."

The Alabama game was particularly difficult because of injuries that the line sustained against Kentucky the week before and either missed practice time or weren't 100 percent heading into the game.

"We were dinged up, all of us from the week before," Gilbert said. "I think not having all five of us together that kind of hurt us a little. We had a lot of guys not practicing and the different plays could hurt us.

"We had some down falls and more mistakes than usual. We blocked them pretty well, we just didn't execute. Everyone wasn't firing all at once and at 100% on every play. We just have to have better execution."

With the loss comes the emphasis on bouncing back. The offensive line is a senior laden group that has the maturity to handle the week after a loss. According to Pouncey,

"We obviously don't have just one leader to stand up for this team," Pouncey said. "We just have to be responsible for each of our units...the power of the unit. If one unit is down one week, we have to have another one step up."

Much has been made about talks in the locker room following the loss to Alabama. The Gators know they have run out of chances to mess up and meet all of their goals.

"There was a lot of stuff said," Pouncey said. "I don't think anyone was angry about the loss, we just want to get it fixed. We have a tough SEC path ahead of us and we just have to get through this tough loss.

"I didn't know what to expect after the game, but we came out Sunday and had a great practice. That is a great sign of a team that wants to get things right."

"We've been down this path before in '06 and '08," Gilbert said. "I think we will bounce back and rebound and become a stronger team."

One thing that we have learned this week is that the option will still remain a part of the Florida offense. As much as it isn't junior quarterback John Brantley's strong suit, the option play is something the Florida staff uses to help scheme against defenses.

"The option is still there, it sets up different stuff in our offense," Pouncey said. "Everybody has their own ways of winning, if it isn't the option, then we need to find other ways to win. We have to figure out a way to get it going. It was a big part of our offense so far. You can't really knock (Brantley) on it, it is just something we have to get better on.

"It loosens up the defenses so that they don't tee off on us the whole game. Whatever we have to do to get the option right we have to get it going."

Pouncey has seen enough of Brantley to know he can make the option work for this offense.

"John Brantley is a great player and can make the plays just like anybody else can," Pouncey said. "He's the starting quarterback and we have to just get it going…There isn't going to be another Tim Tebow. He's our starting quarterback and we are behind him 100% of the way and we are going to get it right."

Brantley was banged up in the game against Alabama and the offensive line is bound and determined to do a good job of keeping him from being hit. So far, the Gators have given up just four sacks in five games, a stat that ranks second in the SEC. Gilbert has moved to the left side where he has played very well next to senior Carl Johnson.

"We take pride in keeping the defenders off of Brantley," Gilbert said. "We have to try and keep him as safe as possible. Carl and I have a lot of fun playing beside each other."

LSU comes in ranked in the top 10 and the defense is the part of the LSU team that really scares opposing teams. This could be a huge battle this weekend in Gainesville.

"We still have a great team and obviously LSU has a great team," Pouncey said. "If we dwell on the past, we will let this one get past us too and we need this game.

"This is one my number one all time favorite games because it's always a night game, its prime time, and every time we play them it is a great game. They are going to come ready to play and we are too."

Gilbert knows when they line up against LSU and their nationally No. 6 ranked defense, they better bring their lunch pail.

"They are really good, the same defensive line you will see from them every year and expect every year it's going to be a tough challenge," Gilbert said. "They were pretty good last year. I think that is something to look forward to."

Pouncey knows that the offensive line can set the tone with a good game and a strong beginning to the game.

"We've been playing alright," he said. "Obviously we can play better, but we need to make a statement in this game up front."


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