DAY SIX: Checking out the Offensive Line

One of the strengths on the Florida football squad is the offensive line. Seniors Mike Degory, Randy Hand, and Lance Butler combine for seven and a half years experience. Jim Tartt, Drew Miller, Steve Rissler, and Tavares Washington are battling for the open positions at guard. Several reserve positions are also open with seemingly very few takers.

With the squad now in full gear, we'll focus on the play up front or at least we'll try. The temporary practice facility could afford us with a perfectly respectable view. However, the media penalty box only serves to remind us just how expensive property in Florida must be.

Between the other players and trainers standing in our line of sight, it can be difficult to catch everything that occurs on a given play.

The first team offensive line did a terrific job against the second team defense in pass protection on Saturday. That has usually been a Florida staple, and one that doesn't appear to be on the decline. Quarterback Chris Leak had plenty of time to find open receivers. Of course, the short passing game doesn't hurt either, which has certainly been the case.

The running game was effective too against the second team defense. This morning, Jim Tartt lined up at right guard while Drew Miller played opposite him at left guard. There were several holes opened on the left side. I watched as Degory, Miller, and Hand created a lane in the blocking scheme for running backs Skyler Thornton and Markus Manson to run through. Miller blew up linebacker Eric Rutledge on one play, keeping the Gainesville native from getting near the ball carrier. I also noted two plays where Butler had gotten downfield ahead to clear out any and all of the toxic waste that remained. Butler was easily ten to fifteen yards downfield.

Tartt appeared fine. There has been a lot of speculation about his shoulder rehab, but it does appear that he is just being brought along slowly at times. He participated in yesterday's Circle of Life drill with seemingly no ill effects. Test complete. Tartt also had a minor heat issue on Friday but he was fine on Saturday.

The Sopchoppy native got a great block on a misdirection play. Tartt turned a linebacker away from a back after firing out to help create a running lane. He is going to be a good one.

The news is not so good among the second team offensive front. They didn't fare well against the first team defense. Adding injury to insult was the fact that Carlton Medder had to be helped off of the field by trainers with an injured leg. We'll see if the unit improves over the next couple of days.

The unit didn't look very good in pass protection either. Josh Portis was under pressure several times in the scrimmage portion. Ray McDonald and Marcus Thomas interrupted a play or two rather quickly. Linebackers Earl Everett and Brandon Siler were practically evil. Perhaps the best rush of the day came when Derrick Harvey crashed the left side when he blew by tackle Jason Watkins. Harvey barely gave Portis a chance to look for a receiver.

In the one-on-one drills, I thought that Miller was the most consistent this morning. Hand, Tartt, Rissler, Ronnie Wilson, and Phil Trautwein each had good and bad moments. Defensive lineman Lutrell Alford got to the passer twice in the drill, once against Wilson and once against Tartt.

We'll keep an eye on the battles for the guard spots and hope to see some improvement from the second team guys.

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