Kan Li / Scout

Mike Summers is energized by the Florida Gators' youth on the offensive line

Florida’s inexperience on the offensive line has presented new challenges for its veteran position coach.

Mike Summers is in his 36th year as a coach and hasn’t experienced a situation like the Gators are currently in at the line of scrimmage. 

Florida returned one player with starting experience -- offensive guard Trip Thurman, who had only 10 career starts coming into this season. Mix in a group of seven true freshmen and three redshirt freshmen, and the Gators knew this would be a year about building for the future for the offensive line.

For Summers, that created energy. The new faces in the offensive line meeting room brought enthusiasm and excitement to learn the intricacies of the offensive line position, which made Summers excited to work with them.

“I don’t know if I've ever been in a situation where we’ve had this few returning players and have to work with a group of younger players and have them in such vital positions that we have right now,” Summers said. “But I’ll follow that up and say I don’t know if I've ever been more enthused about coaching a group of guys that I am with this group. Their spirit to be Florida Gators, their competitive edge to want to make us into a good offensive line has been there. They want to be coached.

“For this to be (year) No. 36 for me -- a lot of people might think that it’s old hat or routine -- it’s been anything but that. The fact that they’re young is a challenge for me, and their enthusiasm spurs my motivation. It’s been a really good coaching situation.” 

The inexperience at the position is a big reason the Gators are rotating so much on the offensive line. They want the young players to get on the field, play their snaps and then come off to talk about what they saw and what they did right or wrong. It keeps bodies fresh, but it also provides a chance for teaching on the sideline.

That’s important for young players that are trying to adjust to the speed of the game. There’s more information on their plate while trying to block a college defense. The coaches are working with them during the week to prepare for it, but there’s only so much they can do.

“There’s so much that happens in such a small space, such a faster amount of time,” Summers said. “They’re dealing with so much information input. So much of this is about what information you gain before the ball gets snapped, as to having an understanding of what’s going to happen after it gets snapped. If you don’t know what you’re looking at and all of these indicators don’t make sense to you, then when you snap the ball, guys move and you’re not prepared for it.

“Understanding what that is takes an awful lot of time and a lot of preparation. And so that's why you don't see very many young linemen across the country that are very successful, because it just takes time to learn those patterns."

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