Antonio Riles believes in the offensive line unit in 2015. He thinks people on the outside don’t know what they have.
When Antonio Riles signed with the Florida Gators to play football a couple of years ago, he was doing so with the intention to hurt quarterbacks. A coveted defensive end with size, he physically fit the mold of what the previous and this staff at Florida look for in their big defensive ends.
But, when he arrived, Riles continued to grow and soon he found himself playing on the other side of the ball. He redshirted in 2013 and his hard work paid off as he was awarded The Most Outstanding Scout Team Player. After a little adjustment, he was on the verge of playing a lot of meaningful minutes in 2014. With four NFL draft bound players in their final year on the roster, Riles didn’t get much of an opportunity to do that.
Boy how things change. With all the departures including a couple of career ending injuries up front, Riles finds himself as the third most experienced player on the offensive line. And he’s ony played a backup role in four games.
One thing that has come of all of it, he likes playing on offense.
“I’ve adjusted to it and moved on and now I love it over here,” Riles said last week. “It’s a selfless position. The ultimate goal is helping the offense work. It can’t really work without the offensive line. It means something to come over here and do something for the team.”
Now instead of holding his arms up in a big cross after mauling quarterback, Riles feels great when he and his line mates open up holes for the running backs or keep the quarterbacks off the grass so they can complete some big passes.
“It’s exciting when guys do the right thing like if (Kelvin Taylor) breaks in the open or (Demarcus Robinson) catches a pass,” Riles said. “As long as they have the glory, we know what we have to do to make that happen.”
As for this season, Riles has four games under his belt as a backup. Nothing to write home about for sure. Yet. He is thrust into a teaching role trying to help the young linemen behind him get better and at a quicker pace than he ever needed to do it.
“It’s not necessarily hard,” he said of all the teaching and work the line has to put in right now. “The roles have definitely switched. I came from asking (Trenton Brown) and D.J. Humphries) about what to do and now (the young guys) are asking me. It is crazy how fast roles can change. It’s definitely an adjustment.”
The big question in the offseason and this fall leading up to the season is how far can this offensive line get in terms of being prepared for a tough DSEC schedule. With all but two scholarship player in the unit being freshmen and sophomores, there is a ton of preparation to do and some anxiety on whether the young guys can handle it.
Riles sees the offensive line a lot differently.
“It’s as good as we want it to be,” he said. “We have young talent on the team. We lack the experience, but that doesn’t matter. People don’t see what we have going on. We will just keep working on being the best offensive line we can be and that’s all we can do.”
Riles should be the front runner to start at one of the guard spots and opposite Trip Thurman. He is being trained to play either guard spot. His personal goals only have to do with getting better in order to help the team.
“I just plan on growing as an offensive lineman and try and be the best player I can be,” he said.