Harrison Sees Difference in Offensive Line

The Florida offensive line struggled during games and on the practice field throughout the 2011 season. That was the first sign of the issues. It's not the case anymore. The offseason program under first-year strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman added strength and athleticism to an offensive line that needed both. Jonotthan Harrison believes the results are tough to miss at practice.

"When we need to move the defensive line, we're having a lot more success at moving them down the line to the linebackers," Florida offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison said. "We worked a lot on flexibility in the offseason with the new strength program, so that's keeping us lower in our stances and helping our bend."

Even the defensive linemen are starting to see it. They got into the backfield sometimes at will during the week of practice before games last season. It doesn't happen as often anymore, and when it does, it takes a lot more work.

"They're doing a really good job and understanding defenses and why they have to block a certain way," said Sharrif Floyd, adding that he would take Florida's line over Alabama or LSU's. "They're a lot mentally stronger."

The strength isn't just mental. The offensive linemen have bulked up from the offseason workouts to give them the ability to fight back in practice against a strong defensive line. With Floyd and Dominique Easley coming at them every day in practice, the group knew it had to get better.

That started in the summer with offseason workouts, and the group is better for it.

"What Jeff Dillman has done with them, especially the big kids," first-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "They're getting strong. Last year, they didn't have as much strength as they needed. What our weight staff has done put our kids in a position to be successful."

There's more comfort in what to expect for the offensive line this fall. Even with a first-year offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, the Gators return everyone from their two-deep last fall except Dan Wenger, who transferred in and played one year at Florida.

With most of the group back, the Gators were ahead of the curve when practices started in the spring. They didn't need to work on communication or many drills to become closer as a unit. They went through the entire 2011 season together.

"It has built a lot of chemistry because we have chemistry together now from playing together for such a long amount of time," Harrison said.

Head coach Will Muschamp has raved about the improved run blocking from last season. With the power run game the Gators are trying to implement, it should open more holes for Mike Gillsilee and the other running backs.

The quarterbacks took multiple hits throughout the 2011 season, and some of them caused serious injuries to senior John Brantley. That was an area of focus in the offseason, and the improved chemistry was just what the group needed.

"Our pass protection has improved a lot," Harrison said. "It comes down to understanding the details, not just relying on technique. Now that we understand defenses a lot more, I notice a great improvement in the pass protection."

The offensive line knows they struggled last season and that drove their offseason work. The rest of the team knows it, too. A 7-6 record wasn't what they were shooting for, but the players believe they're ready to improve this season.

"We know what we put out last year isn't University of Florida," Harrison said. "This season, we have to change that. It's our goal to change that. We've been working all offseason to change this season around."


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