GAINESVILLE, Fla. — We’re almost halfway through the season and there’s been one constant for No. 18 Florida — inconsistent offensive line play.
The expectation this year was for the position to be improved and a potential team strength. That hasn’t happened.
The Gators have repeatedly struggled up front and drew criticism from Florida coach Jim McElwain on Saturday.
“We’ve got to play with better pad level and we’ve got to get off the ball with a sense of urgency and quit waiting for somebody else to hit you in the mouth,” McElwain said. “It’s that simple. I’m sick of seeing it.”
One bright spot is center Cam Dillard. According to analysis from Pro Football Focus, he’s allowed just three QB pressures in 179 pass blocking snaps this season and graded out higher than any Florida offensive player during the past two weeks.
True freshman Jawaan Taylor has also quickly emerged as one of Florida’s best lineman and is starting at right tackle. He took the job from Fred Johnson, who has since moved to right guard and is playing well at that spot.
But Dillard knows the unit as a whole isn’t getting the job done.
“I think we definitely can improve and I think we need to continue to do that,” Dillard said. “(McElwain) just wants to see us be great and he knows how good we can be.
“The team goes as we go, so we take that on us. That’s part of the job at the University of Florida. You come here and you’re supposed to take care of your job.”
The left side has been the weak link on the offensive line. The Martez Ivey experiment is not working out at guard and David Sharpe was beaten badly against Tennessee and Vanderbilt. A lineup change could be coming this week out of necessity.
“Sharpe, he’s got a shoulder (injury),” McElwain said Monday. “We’ll see what we can get out of him. If not, we can move Tez out there. We’ve got Tyler Jordan back obviously. So I was thinking we can move him over there (to left guard) and keep Fred at right. We’ve got some options there and we’ll see what happens as the week goes on.”
This may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Gators. Jordan is their most versatile lineman and would have no trouble switching sides. But the prospect of Ivey playing left tackle is intriguing.
He was a 5-star recruit and the nation’s No. 2 overall player in 2015 because of his ability as an offensive tackle in high school. That is Ivey’s natural position, and his skill set has not translated to guard.
A move back to his old spot could not only give him new life and a better fit, but it might light a fire under Sharpe to step up his game if Ivey excels. McElwain isn’t sure how it will shake out, but he called Ivey the obvious answer at left tackle.
“Whoever does go is going to go,” McElwain said. “They’re going to do everything they can to help the Gators take the pressure off and just go play, just have a good time.”