Offensive Line Playing Physical

Once again as the Gators head down the home stretch of their schedule, the offense finds themselves leading the SEC in many categories. Last season the Gators finished atop the SEC and the country in offensive efficiency, this season they lead the SEC in passing efficiency, yards per play, yards per rush, yards per pass attempt, touchdowns, the list goes on. It all starts up front.

The offensive line for Florida got a little bit of a bad reputation earlier in the year when things went wrong. It is typical for fans and the like to criticize the unit when things aren't going as well as expected. The fact is, they have been a pretty consistent unit all season long.

Lately, they have stepped up their play even more. The offensive line has one from a steady unit to one that is now knocking defenders back and really forcing the issue up front. Florida Offensive Line Coach Steve Addazio says that his unit started of solid, but has taken it to another level as of late.

"They have played pretty consistently all year...there is a little bit of a misnomer there," Addazio said referring to the bad rap his guys got early in the season. "They are really playing exceptional right now and when I say exceptional I am talking about the physicalness and finishing blocks down field. We are starting to be a punishing front, which is terrific."

It all starts with senior leadership and starting left tackle Phil Trautwein. Trautwein is a quiet leader, one that does his thing by example. Addazio knows that when Trautwein takes the field, the younger players follow his lead.

"They respect Phil for his work ethic," Addazio said. "He is a very accountable guy, he knows what is going on, he studies the game and works the game. Players love players that are like that."

The unit couldn't be stepping up like it has without a solid group of backups. Starting left guard Jim Tartt has been out almost the entire season and in his place there have been a couple of players try o make things happen. A couple of games ago, sophomore Carl Johnson was inserted into the lineup and sine the move was made, Johnson has really played well.

"We always thought that Carl would be a real good football player,l" Addazio said. "Now he is getting a chance to play and playing really well. He is a big, strong, big-bodied guy in there. He's playing like that. He is really good in protection and in the running game he is a big powerful guy on the big downs inside. In the last few weeks that is what Carl has brought to the table and has done a great job with it."

Against Kentucky last weekend the Gators got out to a commanding lead and were able to get some work for more key reserves. Guard Mo Hurt had a serious injury earlier in the year and it was thought he may not be able to come back to the team this year or maybe even ever. Hurt did return Saturday and got some quality minutes along with freshman James Wilson who started the season off with injuries of his own.

"It was great, Mo got to knock some of the rust off," Addazio said. "James got some needed game reps, They are working hard and working better. Moe has played a lot of football, he just needed to knock the rust off. James just needs to play ball., so it was good for him. Carl played some tackle. It was terrific to get those guys in the game and playing. Marcus got in earlier for Phil and got some real quality tackle reps."

There has been a little change up front in the attitude of the line as the season has progressed. Some of that has been brought on by success running the ball and the fact they know that the guys running the ball behind them are able to take the ball to the end zone at any time. The zone scheme the Gators run isn't the easiest to be physical with, but Addazio's troops have adapted and made it physical.

"It is a demeanor of wanting to bloody players noses," Addazio said of the play of his line. "It is a little different, but at the end of the day our goal is to be a hard-nosed run team. Whether there is two backs or one back, it is irrelevant. We run all schemes, which are down hill schemes, we run zone schemes. Sometimes it is harder on the tackles because they have to fit on the second level, but we want to be a hard ball run team. We have backs that really hit that thing now. Our line is really getting into people and finishing blocks. It's fun to watch right now."

It's fun to watch for the fans too.

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