Addazio Likes What He Sees Of Young Linemen

One of the primary goals for Florida's football team in 2006 will be a job of protecting Chris Leak. Since the Gators have only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, it's imperative that this young, inexperienced unit grows up fast. Coach Steve Addazio, who coaches the tackles and tight ends, shared some insight about what to expect from the offensive linemen this season.

For the Florida offense to put up big, consistent numbers, the left tackle will have to do his part. Chris Leak will need someone he can trust on the left side to make certain he isn't blindsided. The job belongs to New Jersey native Phil Trautwein (6-6, 308), a true junior that played sparingly the last two years. According to Coach Addazio, Trautwein made a big move in the spring to take over.

"He had one of the best springs of anyone," Addazio said. "He had a phenomenal spring and has become a well rounded football player in the passing and running game. He was playing his best football at the end of spring. He is probably one of the most consistent players up front right now."

Behind Trautwein for the moment is Jason Watkins (6-6, 310). The Lakeland Lake Gibson lineman may be behind Trautwein at that spot, but he could see playing time elsewhere if someone else goes down.

"Jason Watkins had a good spring too, but was banged up," Addazio said. "I really like his growth, his demeanor, his personality, his approach to the game. He is becoming a player. We play the five best players (on the offensive line) and he is pushing to be one of the five best players. However that unwinds and for whatever reason, that is what we will do."

At the opposite tackle is Drew Miller (6-5, 305) who made his mark last season on the interior at guard. The former Sarasota Riverview star made SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his play against Georgia, but he only had a handful of starts. This spring he was moved to the outside and apparently he responded quite well.

"Drew has moved from inside to the outside and done really well with it," said Coach Addazio. "He has great feet and worked real hard with his quickness. He has worked hard at the position and had a good spring. He is a real versatile guy that can play inside or outside. Right now we have him slated at right tackle and he is doing a great job with it."

For the time being, junior Carlton Medder (6-5, 312) of Clermont Southlake is the backup at right tackle. Medder is looking to get his first chance at quality playing time at Florida. Addazio always seems to ride him at practice, but bystanders can tell that Medder responds to the call.

"I am on him because I like what he is doing," Addazio said. "Football is real important to Carlton and he is working hard to get on the field. I liked the way he progressed (in the spring) and he has a great attitude."

Addazio is not one to talk glowingly unless it is deserved. He is a critical analyst for the players he coaches and they know it. That is why it was real interesting to hear him talk about his group of tackles as a whole.

"As you can tell I am not a pie in the sky kind of guy," he said. "I am telling you I like those four guys."

Addazio hasn't had a chance to coach true freshman Marcus Gilbert (6-6, 303) yet but the former St. Thomas Aquinas star looks to have a bright future. It will be interesting to see if he can make a push to get into the mix at least as a primary backup in August.

"Having a chance to get to know him just a little, he seems like a heck of a young man that is real committed," Addazio said. "We are real excited about his future."

The tight end at Florida will seldom be asked to block at the line of scrimmage. Normally flexed out, the tight end will be one of five receivers in the offense but there are occasions when they are called to line up and block like a normal tight end. Addazio is the coach that works with them on their blocking technique.

Tate Casey (6-6, 245) is a true junior tight end from Longview (TX) and one that has seen an extensive amount of playing time. He is relentless on the field and although not the most physically intimidating player, he uses his hustle to make bigger defenders work.

"I work with him in the run game and protection," Addazio started. "It is important to Tate to become a good blocker. He doesn't get a chance to work on it as much, but when he does he does a heck of a job with it. With him, he needs to put some weight on. He is a good leverage bender and has good feet, but he has to get a little more thump (weight) to him.

In blocking situations former Tampa Jefferson and true freshman Trent Pupello (6-4, 256) will be the next in line to do the job. He is powerfully built and will give opposing linebackers and defensive ends something to think about on their way to the backfield. Pupello is a real gladiator that will really help with the protection and running game.

In all, Coach Addazio feels really good about the tackle and tight end spots. The youth is met with open ears and the players seem willing and able to learn what is being taught on the practice field. The continuous strides of a young group with a grizzled veteran coach like Addazio bodes well for the near future of the Florida Gator offense.


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