Chemistry High Across the Offensive Line

The Florida Gators are in a happy place right now with the offensive line. Not only could the front five be one of the best units on the squad, but there's chemistry and depth that has only improved the line's development since the start of fall camp.

It hasn't been a smooth two weeks since practice started. Offensive line coach Steve Addazio has had to deal with nicks and bruises across the line, but he's also been able to recognize the depth potential the offensive line has.

"We've been nickeled and dimed with a bunch of injuries that have created a constant patchwork deal," Addazio said. "Thank God we've created enough versatility that we can recover from that. We've had great effort and great work ethic. But what we want to get now is cohesiveness, and in order to get that, we need everyone back on the field. The good news is that they will all be. We suffered a couple of deals, but they'll all be back."

Seniors Phil Trautwein and Jim Tartt have both sat out contact sessions because of sore shoulders, and Maurice Hurt and Carl Johnson are also dinged up. But the Gator offensive line goes nine deep, and the injuries have allowed Addazio to get more reps for some of the backup players.

"We have more than five," he said. "I think right now we're really striving to get seven, eight and nine. But in order to get them going we have to get consistency of getting them on the field at one time. We still have a fair amount of time."

Marcus Gilbert has avoided any sort of injury through the first two weeks, and he's been considered as one of the most improved players since the spring.

"I think Marcus Gilbert has had a great camp," Addazio said. "I think he's developing into a fine football player. He hasn't missed a snap. He's jockeying from left tackle to right tackle to right guard and that's a lot for a young guy that hasn't played a lot of football, but he's handling it mentally. I think he's done really a terrific job."

Addazio said Gilbert has really begun to mature, which has allowed him to progress. He's also healthy after being dinged up for his first couple of summers in Gainesville.

"He had that elbow injury that really held him out," Addazio said. "He missed two summers because of that and this was really the first summer he was able to put some weight on and get thick. That started last fall with the development on the football field. It improved in the spring, and now you're seeing development all over the place."

In addition to Gilbert, both Pouncey twins have been healthy throughout the fall, and Addazio has worked on getting them versatile at different positions.

"Both Pouncey's have been really consistent throughout camp," he said. "We've shuffled them both in and out of guard and center. It's amazing. It's so smooth. There's no hiccup when you move them and that's been really encouraging."

James Wilson is also considered one of those nine guys that can contribute after a turbulent season last year, fighting through injuries and thoughts of transferring.

"He's a big powerful guy that's working hard," Addazio said.

Jason Watkins moved from left tackle back to right tackle to accommodate Trautwein's return, and he's also taken on more of a leadership role.

"He's really grown up," Addazio said. "He's got it together in school. He's got it together on the field. People are really looking up to him."

Addazio said there's a lot of chemistry on the offensive line. Some of that he credits to the maturation process, and some of it he credits to the energy brought in by the Pouncey twins. Whatever the reason, he's happy with the way the line looks heading into the final week of fall camp.

"Some people bring out the best in people, and some people bring out the worst in people," he said. "There is some kind of synergy between all these guys."

Questions or comments? Contact's Chris Chmielenski

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