The Gators are 10th in the Southeastern Conference while averaging 408 yards per game. While inconsistent quarterback play and a lack of playmakers has hurt, the issues on the offensive line are the obvious concern moving forward.
Florida coach Jim McElwain joked that his team came into the season with only one lineman to ever start a game for the Gators, but now there are players with three starts up front.
“We’re finally starting to get some playing time reps,” McElwain said. “That’s one that you can continually improve with your technique, working with each other, communication. We’re going to start to play some real D-linemen – glass eaters and fire breathers. You’re going to have to get off the ball, play with pad level and get your second step in the ground snap your hips. Part of that comes with just experience, doing it over and over and over and over.”
The Florida running game has suffered since the offensive line hasn’t been able to open holes. The Gators are 11th in the SEC with 170 rushing yards per game and 12th in the SEC with 4.4 yards per carry.
Kelvin Taylor’s 3.8 yards per carry is the lowest on the team for anyone with more than five rush attempts, but it hasn’t all been his fault. There just isn’t much running room for the Florida backs.
“Obviously, you would love to have a 10-yard average when you run the ball,” McElwain said. “I think where I’m more concerned is our explosive runs -- they haven’t been there. We’ve got to somehow create that with a little bit of movement, snap up front, and then we’ve got to hit that crease when we have it.”
The return of freshman Martez Ivey didn’t help the experience of the group, but it did give the Florida offensive line a talented body that can help this fall. After the former Army All-American had his knee scoped at the end of fall camp, he missed the first two games while recovering.
Ivey worked as the first-team left tackle as fall camp came to a close, but he came off the bench at Kentucky and proved he can be a trusted part of the offensive line.
“I thought he knocked off some rust,” McElwain said. “I thought he blew them off the ball pretty well. He did a really good job of creating some push. His quickness. He did good.”
GETTING SCARLETT INVOLVED
Taylor led the Florida running backs with 16 carries on Saturday while Jordan Cronkrite, who started the game, had six carries. No other running backs was involved. Freshman Jordan Scarlett traveled with the team but didn’t get on the field.
McElwain pointed to a bad week of practice for Scarlett in preparation for the Kentucky game but added that he’ll play against Tennessee with a better week.
“Consistency, ball security,” McElwain said. “You’ve got to do it every day. I’m sure glad he’s here. He’s going to be a really good player for us.”
FIELD GOAL IMPROVEMENT NEEDED
The Gators have run into multiple issues on special teams this season, most notably with missing field goals.
After missing two field goals against East Carolina, Austin Hardin had one blocked at Kentucky. The blocking was fine, but the ball was just kicked too low.
“The missed field goals are something that are starting to become a concern,” McElwain said. “I’ll be straight up, the low trajectory. It’s not like there’s a block issue in there as far as the schematics of protecting.”