FOOTBALL: Worried about the line? You shouldn't be

Football is a game that revolves around the big play and for most fans the phrase, "what have you done for me lately," dictates the mind set. From "Big Play Chad" to Chris "12-Gauge" Leak, offensive super stars highlight ESPN's College Game Day Final. For the Gators, the toast of the town this weekend was Ciatrick Fason and his coming out party with 90,000 or so of his closest friends. But how about a little pub for the big uglies?

The same big uglies that paved the way for Fason's yardage and didn't render a sack to Kentucky.

Saturday against Kentucky, the O-Line was plagued with penalties giving UF fans memories of 2003 when it seemed that illegal formation, holding and false start calls were just a normal phase of the game. The Gators tallied 11 total penalties for 91 yards with 8 of those infractions belonging to the offensive line. Jon Colon had a holding and a false start, while Mike Degory had an uncharacteristic false start and personal foul.

Finger pointing was rampant from the offensive line, but much of the jumps were due to Kentucky players supposed yelling ‘hut' and ‘hike' at the guys up front. While not acceptable as an excuse, the offensive line has been terrific this year and will be one of the strong points as the season goes on for many reasons.

I remember watching spring practice and picking up on a couple things that I just didn't understand up front. Anthony Guerrero playing left tackle, Carlton Medder at right tackle and the emergence of Steve Rissler at center all drew comments from the Gator faithful. Now the results of "cross-training" linemen are starting to show.

With Jon Colon slowed by injury and Tavares Washington not being at the top of the depth chart, Guerrero spent a good chunk of the Kentucky game playing at LT. Rissler, who was hurt in the Tennessee game, surely would have stepped up in center Mike Degory's absence.

"In reality, I thought Anthony Guererro got better and when he got here he basically was just kind of status quo," offensive line coach Joe Wickline said in the spring.

Degory, who sat out a good part of the second half against the Wildcats, should be good to go against Arkansas, Zook said.

"He still had a little bit of a headache today and he was a little foggy," he said.

Mike is the heart and soul of the line and one of the primary reasons for optimism in the offensive trench. Yet another reason for optimism lies in starting left guard Lance Butler. Wickline had nothing but good things to say about Butler during the spring.

"On a scale from where he started to now is definitely the most improved," he said. "There is no question he has improved in his overall football skills. He has always had the potential. He is now applying it to the field."

Yet another reason for smiles on the offensive line lies with Mo Mitchell. Mitchell is the heaviest guy on the line and also plays nose tackle in goal-line situations. He is always jumping around on the first play of each series and is very energetic for a guy his size.

At right tackle, Randy Hand has been nothing short of amazing as a junior and could be something really special during his senior year. The left tackle is a position where Jon Colon needs to stay healthy and play smart. As a senior, he is counted on to protect Leak.

With three games in the bag already in the books, the offensive line must continue to perform on a high level for the sake of both the running and passing game. It is key to note that the offensive line played great on Saturday minus the penalties which are correctable and this is what UF should pull away with on this group. Especially because the other side of the coin entails an offensive line that plays penalty free, but can't open up holes or protect the QB.


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