Work In Progress OL Starting To Shape Up

They are a work in progress, a mostly inexperienced group that does the dirty work for the Florida football team, but every day when Coach Steve Addazio walks off the practice field, he knows he's gotten the best effort from this group of offensive linemen that are trying to carve a niche for themselves this spring. In terms of effort and in terms of desire, he's got a group that gives him everything they have every day.

"They're fun to work with," said Addazio, who teams with Coach John Hevesy to coach the Florida offensive line. "Not a finished product by any means but if you're looking for a group that works hard every day and comes to work and improve every day, then you'll like this bunch."

A first team line of Phil Trautwein (tackle) and Jim Tartt (guard) on the left side with Steve Rissler (center) and Ronnie Wilson (guard) and Drew Miller (tackle) on the right side is starting to shape up as a unit that can get the job done. Trautwein has seen backup duty at right tackle the previous two years while Tartt was an off-again, on-again starter at guard last season because of injuries. Rissler backed up Mike Degory at center the last two years while getting in some reps and a few starts at guard. Miller got some starts in at guard last year and even earned SEC Lineman of the Week for his play against Georgia. Wilson took a red-shirt last year as a true freshman.

"Every day we see a lot of improvement," said Addazio. "We see guys that really like the game of football and they come every day excited about working on their game … getting better … working on their tool box. That's what we call it. You come to work every day ready to work on the tools of your trade.

"They seem to really like the hard work. These guys have a passion to learn and get better and we seem them battling every snap every day. Those are really good signs."

There were times last season, the first for Coach Urban Meyer and his staff of assistants at Florida, when the offensive line looked dazed and confused. Injuries were a problem, particularly early in the season, but there was also a learning curve. The new staff meant a new way of doing things and everybody on the line didn't get it all at once.

Now in year two, things are becoming more instinctive for the linemen and it's starting to show on the practice field. There is far less hesitation and not nearly as many mental mistakes.

"It's like anything else," said Addazio. "This is the second year now. You're hearing things over and over again so you're playing faster. Things aren't coming at you as hard because the calls aren't brand new anymore. When you play on the offensive line there is a collection of things from the rules to your assignments to your blocking calls and techniques and when you hit it all at once, especially in year one, it bogs you down mentally because it's so much at you at once that you have to know and do.

"Right now, we're starting to play faster and we still have a ways to go but this group really enjoys what they're doing. It's a great attitude and a great effort that we see every day. As coaches, that's what we look for."

Behind the starting group, Addazio has some young guys who are working hard and starting to push the guys ahead of them. Youngsters like Jason Watkins and Simon Codrington have shown plenty of improvement as has center Eddie Haupt, who had back surgery last year when he was a true freshman.

"Carlton Medder is having his very finest spring since he's been here and he's really working hard and showing that he wants to be a player," said Addazio. "He's pushing it every day."

And then there are the two freshmen, Carl Johnson and Maurice Hurt. They are big guys (Johnson 340, Hurt 325) with quick feet and plenty of potential, both skipping their final semester in high school to enroll at UF so they can take part in spring practice.

"We have two guys getting ready to go to their prom but they're here working every day," said Addazio. "Carl Johnson and Maurice Hurt are going to be big time players and being here this spring is going to accelerate their development."

The finished product is a way off, but if effort and hard work are true indicators, then the Florida's offensive line could be a source of strength in the fall.

"We have a group of guys that can push it and put themselves in the game and play," said Addazio. "They're working hard every day, getting better every day and the best part is they want to work, they want to learn. We're establishing depth, too. There are a lot of good signs out here."

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