O-line Getting More Consistent

What the Gator offensive line did to LSU's defensive front was nothing short of amazing last Saturday night. The Gators gained 265 yards on the ground against a Tiger team that had only allowed 276 yards through its first four games.

The offensive line was able to get the Florida running backs to the second level of the defense, beyond the defensive line, so that Florida's speed and quickness could take over.

"We played really consistent all night long against a good defensive front," offensive line coach Steve Addazio said. "We protected the football well, ran the ball well, and we were able to get movement up front, so they were able to put it all together. It was nice to see them put that game together. I thought they played very well."

The offensive line has come under some scrutiny this season. Whether it be penalties or missed assignments, they haven't looked great at times. But they've also faced injuries, including the shoulder of senior left guard Jim Tartt, and on the o-line continuity is very important.

"We've played well in a lot of games," Addazio said. "We played consistent. They physicalness of our line has been there every game. That's not a new phenomenon. What's happened is that we've had some consistency issues. The senior leadership and the preparation really came together this week. They wanted to go out and play well against one of the top defensive fronts."

The bye week has given Tartt some extra time to rest his sore shoulder. Marcus Gilbert is also recovering from a sore ankle. But the loss of Tartt, especially in the second half of the Ole Miss game and at Arkansas was noticeable for the Gators' offensive line.

"It's real hard on him right now," Addazio said. "It's his senior year, but he's got a great attitude and he's trying to rehab and get strong. It's a week-by-week deal, but it's hard. Here's one of your veteran players that played so well against Tennessee and then really in the first two series against Ole Miss, and then bang. He knows that continuity gets shaken up and he wants to be in there."

The improvement of the two Wilsons is also adding depth and the competition to the offensive line during the season's midpoint.

"James Wilson is progressing very well," Addazio said. "He got a chance to get in at the end of that game. He's a young talent. He's a big powerful, strong guy and he's just learning the offense right now.

"Ron Wilson is getting back into form. He's doing a good job playing guard and center. It's a technique game and he's getting his technique-grove back up again. It's hard and it's a very competitive unit right now. You're not going to just roll in there."

One thing the offensive line will likely show more of this season is the splits they showed against LSU. Florida put extra space between the linemen that allowed for bigger gaps for the running backs to run through.

"We worked on that last year and we used that last year," Addazio said. "We've always liked that concept. Like anything else, we were very confident going into the game using those, and I think it was very productive for us. Ultimately, you have to block them, and we blocked them.

"When you talk conceptually about spreading the defense, you want to spread that force unit. It creates space, and you have to defend that space. It worked out well for us. We have an athletic offensive line, and they have to combo block, too, when we create those big areas.

You hate to have any distractions in the middle of a football season, but Addazio was asked about a letter from former Syracuse fullback Rob Konrad that ran in a Syracuse newspaper last week. Konrad wrote the Syracuse athletic director, listing several issues that need to be addressed regarding the current state of the program. At the end of the letter, Konrad brought up Addazio's name as the choice of former Syracuse captains should current head coach Greg Robinson be relieved of his duties. Addazio was the offensive line coach at Syracuse from 1995-98.

Addazio wouldn't comment on the letter.

Here's an excerpt from the letter…

"During our group discussions regarding coaching candidates, we have consistently arrived at one individual who as a Head Coach at Syracuse would fill the critical needs of the program addressed above. Steve Addazio is currently the Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach of the University of Florida. He coached at Syracuse 1995-98 before making stops at Notre Dame and Florida. Addazio began his career as a high school coach in Cheshire, CT and keeps many of the relationships of the past regime with the high school coaching element of the Northeast region. He has built a reputation as a tremendous recruiter and a passionate motivator who has become legendary for his pre-game speeches. Addazio has helped organize some of the most potent non-conventional offenses in college football including Florida's National Championship season and Syracuse's Big East Championship and BCS seasons. Besides coaching at the pinnacle of college football, local knowledge and motivational attributes, considering his past ties to the University, he may come with a reasonable price tag. I have not spoken to Steve Addazio since 1998, and I can't tell you if he's interested in the job. I can represent, with pure objectivity, that Steve Addazio is one of the most logical and qualified coaches to bring this once proud program back to life."

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