Offensive line health benefitting offense

The Florida running game struggled to start the season. Matt Jones was battling back from a viral infection and the offensive line was banged up, struggling to put the healthy unit on the field. As the Gators prepare for Arkansas this Saturday, they have their healthy offensive line with Jones off his best game of the season. The healthy offensive line has jumpstarted Florida's rushing attack.

Saturday was the dream game for the Florida offensive line. It happened last year as the Gators ran at will to finish off a win over LSU, and last weekend at Kentucky, it was back to the same game plan.

The game was in hand. To avoid a turnover that could let Kentucky get back in the game, the Gators kept it on the ground. Florida ended the game with 45 runs to 18 passes.

"I'm sure they love it. Our guys -- one thing that's great about our guys is I've never heard them complain one time about anything," Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "Whether we're throwing it more or running it more, they want to get in there. If we had 80 plays, they want to run it 79.

"That's their world, that's what they like. They're doing a lot better job of protection and handling different schemes in front of them."

The Gators were still battling some injuries last week in practice. Right guard Jon Halapio was preparing to play after being poked in the eye against Tennessee. Right tackle Tyler Moore was battling a sprained ankle that kept him out of the Tennessee game.

Kyle Koehne has served as the utility man. The coaches don't enjoy using him in multiple places on the field because he also serves as the backup center. However, with the injuries, Koehne has stepped into playing time at guard and tackle.

"You've still got to give Kyle Koehne a lot of credit," Pease said. "Kid's played a lot of positions for us and now he's out at tackle again. Here we are winning with him again. He's steady and he's very consistent."

The blocking of the line has improved so far, especially on the ground. That's what helped Florida run the ball 45 times against Kentucky. The boost has come from Max Garcia joining the offensive line at right guard. He drew rave reviews with the scout team last year, and he has turned into a dominant run blocker.

Garcia joined Jones to earn offensive player of the game honors against Kentucky.

"He graded out high," Pease said. "He's blocking his guy, missed zero assignments. We had no protection issues with him. He's downfield on runs. He's very consistent at making plays."

The Gators also used Jonotthan Harrison heavily on plays that featured the center pulling and getting outside the tackle to serve as the lead blocker. The Pouncey twins made a name for themselves on similar plays during their careers at Florida, and Harrison showed similar athleticism on Saturday.

"Jon being able to run gives him angles to get the guy instead of trying to get through sometimes," Pease said.

TAYLOR WON'T REDSHIRT: The Florida coaches continue to say that freshman running back Kelvin Taylor will get more involved in the offense. However, he had only one carry against Tennessee and didn't touch the ball against Kentucky.

They don't plan to redshirt him and still think he can get involved in the offense.

"He's still in the mix," Pease said. "We want to get him in there. I think (running backs) coach (Brian) White has a good feel on how he controls those guys and how the game flow is going and where we've got to pick our spots. It's hard with one ball, three players.

"They're all capable. They're all very good. A couple of them have experience. We spot guys in certain packages to use at certain times. We've got to continue. The good thing about it is they've all been very unselfish, and they've all grown and continued to practice real well."

RAZORBACKS PRESSURE: The Gators will face two talented defensive ends on Saturday. Trey Flowers and Chris Smith pose a huge challenge for the Florida offensive tackles. Smith leads the SEC with six tackles and Fowler is tied for third with three sacks.

"Those guys are good," Pease said. "Those guys, they've got length on the edges. They got speed coming off the edges. And they move them around. They can win one-on-one battles. They can demand combinations where they single somebody else up. And I think their scheme, you know, how they maneuver them and use games with them. It's tough. We have a lot to handle with that."

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