SPRING: Left tackle position shaping up

"The Swamp" took its' name quite literally today. The weather around the Gainesville area has been perfect for interrupting outdoor activities. Just ask the folks who were in town for last weekend's NHRA Gatornationals or the thousands in town for this weekend's Florida Relays track event, which was unfortunately cancelled.

Veterans Mike Degory, Randy Hand, Lance Butler return to form an outstanding core group of experienced leaders. The vacant guard position opposite Butler will be manned by either Steve Rissler or Drew Miller. Rissler (6'3 303) played in every game last season (471 plays), including two starts. Miller (6'5 302) saw action in 28 plays in '04. Both of these guys can play. I've also liked the early play of redshirt freshman Jim Tartt (6'3 315). There is no question in my mind that Florida is set inside and at right tackle with veteran Randy Hand (6'6 310).

The one spot along the offensive line that is of concern is the vacant left tackle position. In today's scrimmage, I focused primarily on the situation at left tackle.

Senior Tavares Washington (6'4 311) is currently running with the first unit. Washington was redshirted last season after an injury early in camp. The former junior college All-American from Mississippi Delta has not met expectations thus far. But, if he can remain healthy, that is seemingly about to change.

Washington has blocked very well during the first two weeks of Spring Break-Urban Meyer style. I noted his strong performance the other day in practice, which he continued in today's scrimmage.

The good news is that I noted several plays in which Washington kept defensive ends Jeremy Mincey and Joe Cohen away from quarterback Chris Leak in pass protection. These guys rarely got a sniff of Leak's deodorant against Washington today. Most of the plays that I charted these guys never got within a whisper of Leak. Which begs the question…just how well are our D-Ends performing?

Backing up Washington is redshirt freshman Jason Watkins. The former Lake Gibson High School graduate looks much better this season. Watkins (6'6 300) added some much needed strength, and some tonnage.

Jason Watkins has great promise at the left tackle position

Watkins has the great footwork and athleticism which could make him a Florida player to look out for in the near future. I noted several plays today where Watkins dusted off junior MacKenzie Pierre as he attempted to get to Leak. He buried defensive end Jarvis Moss, as attempted to dip inside and jet back outside as the offense was backed up at their own one yard line. Moss was found on his back under Watkins.

I would give Washington high marks for his run blocking as well, although not quite as high. He jumped off-sides once which didn't please the coaching staff. Washington is a pretty solid run blocker. I noted four plays where he flat beat Mincey and Cohen as the ball was run to the left side. The offense had several runs to the left that picked up nice yardage. There were two others in which he didn't get under his man and more or less screened him off of the ball carrier. Both Washington ands Watkins are following the Meyer philosophy and staying after their man.

Watkins appears to have fun run blocking. I get the feeling that he is enjoying getting physical. You can see it at times in his mannerisms during or immediately after a play. He got after Pierre and a blitzing defensive back on one play as Portis was releasing the ball.

The second string OL in today's scrimmage. Watkins is on the left

While I'm certainly not ready to declare left tackle a position of strength, things appear much more stable than they have in the recent past. And the best news is that there is still a late spring and summer of strength/speed work to improve.

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