Wenger Sees a Difference in the OL

Dan Wenger has been a part of six offensive lines in his college career. Whether being on the field or involved in the film room with them as a young player, there are parts of each unit that Wenger uniquely remembers. It's not hard for him to pick out what makes this year's Florida offensive line stick out to him. It's how close the unit has become.

"It's a very close-knit group," Dan Wenger said. "There aren't too many people wanting to do their own thing. We're all together. We've been more tied together and gelled together. I felt it in the summer with how welcoming the guys were for me. We were able to grow and become closer each step of the way."

The chemistry off the field is talked about a lot at most positions, but there isn't a position where it's more important than the offensive line. The more time the players spend with each other, the more comfortable they feel on the field together.

"That's where it starts before anything else," Wenger said. "If you've got guys who are close off the field that are being around each other and being good friends, it'll translate on the field as well."

Going into the season, the offensive line looked like it could be a weakness. The unit returned only left tackle Xavier Nixon and right guard Jon Halapio as players who saw consistent time in the starting lineup last season. Despite the group's youth, it hasn't taken them long to gel on the field.

Wenger credits that to the coaching staff. He came to Florida with the blessing of offensive line coach Frank Verducci and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, but it wasn't only for his play on the field. It was also for the leadership and veteran presence he was on the field.

After being around Verducci and Weis at Notre Dame, Wenger isn't surprised to see the young line succeed.

"The coaching styles of Coach Verducci and Coach Weis are ones that I really believe in and admire," Wenger said. "What they do puts players in a great position to do well. It doesn't surprise me that we have young guys doing as well as they are.

"As time goes on and they're still getting coached, it's only going to be better. These guys with multiple years left with these coaches are really blessed. It's going to do wonders for them down the road."

The Gators have allowed just one sack so far this season, and that came on a missed assignment that left a lineman have an untouched run at John Brantley during the Tennessee game. The unit still sees the need for improvement.

Weis was unhappy with having to throw the ball from the opponent's one-yard line against Tennessee on Saturday. He also was frustrated that it took four downs for the Gators to get in the end zone on their first drive of the second half.

It translated to the film room, and the players see the need to improve in those situations.

"We want to pride ourselves on being able to move the football," Wenger said. "We can move it all the way down the field from being back on our own one (yard line), but not being able to punch it in from their one (yard line), that's the most important thing. It's one of those things that we have to keep working at."

The offense has improved its ability to start quickly this season. The Gators have scored on their first possession in all three of their games this season. Last year, Florida scored on its first possession in just three total games.

It has come from a renewed focus to starting fast that actually begins on the practice field.

"We've told ourselves we have to start fast," Wenger said. "It starts in practice. If we start off practice well and come out with a bang, we know we're going to be doing the same in a game. We know the coaches expect that out of us. Since we've done it the past couple weeks, we expect it from ourselves, too."

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