EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Coach Wickline, Part Two

<img src=http://www246.pair.com/autoybkh/albums/album86/P1000111.thumb.jpg align=right>This is part two of our in-depth and candid interview with OL Coach Wickline giving us insight into his offensive line, the recruitment of junior college kids, the incoming freshmen OL, and much more...

Two years ago, the Gators recruited 3 junior college offensive linemen. How are they going to help us this year?

"Tavares Washington will be our starting left tackle when fall drills begin. I think he will be very productive. Billy Griffin, a center, has always been a very vital part of what we are doing. It is unfortunate that he is behind a guy that is very good, but we are trying to figure out a way to get him on the field. He is a solid signee and we would do it all over again. Just try going into a game without two centers. He's a nice kid and is getting bigger, stronger, and faster. I was disappointed in Anthony Guererro at first. He has always had some skills. He had a good spring and he showed he can win at this level. Now whether it is as a starter or third guard rotator, I don't know. The junior college guys' maturity showed this spring and we need that. It's also going to help us with recruiting this year when they leave. All the recruits will see that we have all of these seniors graduating."

Coach Wickline helping campers with their stance at the summer camps

What do you like about the four new freshmen offensive linemen?

"I can't set any of them aside; all four are touted to be good kids. They are skilled players that have a lot of metal about them. They have the size and strength and speed. The biggest thing they have is good character; all of them are ‘yes sir, no sir, whatever you want to do coach'. They want to win and they want to play and to this point that is all I have heard about any of them. Now obviously, Jim Tartt had a shoulder problem that he thought was taken care of and he went through his senior year and could have done something and he didn't. He got a little sidetracked, but he will be fine. He will play this year, practice and contribute, but it will keep him from starting early. He will eventually be a guy that will fit right in. All four are close; all four will play a lot of football. Maybe some earlier than others but before they leave in the future, this group will be why we will be good up front."

How about the rotation of linemen -- some of our readers have complained that we rotate without cause?

The people that complain have already formed an opinion or an idea about what is right or wrong. Most of the time they don't know what they are talking about. It has to be handled and you can only work with what you have. If you don't have enough players at this position, then you have to do what you have to do to get your best players on the field. There has been a shortage here; we are doing what we can with what we have. We don't have the luxury of getting mad bitching or crying about it, we just have to make it work. Now, I said this a long time ago, we are weaning ourselves out of recruiting junior college players and weaning ourselves out of rotating players in and out of games and from right to left, and from guard and tackle. It has been a three year process and I think we have gotten to that point. Who knows -- I don't know about injury -- but the more you are into your program and recruiting and the more numbers you have, then you have that luxury that you don't have to do that."

Along the lines of rotation, do you see maybe rotating a whole line at a time?

"Yes, that is a possibility. First of all we have the freshmen, but it will be dependent on the need. If we don't need to, if we are in the middle of the second quarter and we are strong enough we will keep going. But we will send a whole new group in if we need to. We want to keep our guys fresh, if we have the luxury and the flexibility to do so."

Phil Trautwein talks to Coach Wickline at a recent camp.

I would be amiss if I didn't ask about Randy Hand?

"I think he is poised to be all conference. I think if he does the right things he has the ability and size to be an all conference player. He got better last year, but being older, stronger, more mature, I think he will be one of the better tackles in the conference. You could tell when it came to using his hands violently like we need to do up front that his hand injury lat year made him less effective."

How about Jonathan Colon?

"I think he is ready to have his best year since he has been here."

What's on the horizon in recruiting on offensive line this year?

"I think we need to sign 5 or 6 linemen this year. From here on out we don't want to recruit any junior college linemen if we can help it. We may have to get one junior college tackle this year if they are good enough."

As stated earlier, Coach Wickline really lays it out there. He has a wry sense of humor that takes some getting used to. I believe he will do wonders with the offensive line during his tenure here at the University of Florida. He has a great relationship with most or all of his players and I believe they respect what he does for them as he respects what they do for him and the Gators. I can see his apparent happiness with the offensive line we will put out on the field this year.

Coach Wickline made it clear to us how important it is to have several years in the system to get a line to perform to expectations. He also likes the fact that his boys on the line are getting progressively more physical and quicker. The depth on the line is satisfactory to him, but he wants some more for next year.

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