The season is over for Florida football, and the transfer portal is already a whirlwind. If there is a silver lining for the Gators not making a bowl game, it is that Billy Napier and crew can turn their full attention to the portal in an effort to plug holes that plagued Florida in 2023.
Unfortunately for the Gators, one of the weakest areas for the Gators in throughout the 2023 campaign is the area that is hardest to fix with the transfer portal.
Florida Football: Big bodies up front
When last season finished, Josh Braun and Ethan White opted to hit the transfer portal despite both being projected starters along the offensive line for 2023. In their place, Florida went out and grabbed Damieon George from Alabama, Micah Mazzccua from Baylor, and Kiyaunta Goodwin from Kentucky.
On paper, it felt like the offensive line was going to be a unit of strength for the Gators heading into 2023.
Mazzccua was decent but not elite, Goodwin had to depart before the season due to a family matter, and George was frequently on roller skates when paired against some of the better defensive ends in the nation.
The result was a unit that allowed a sack on 9.4% of passing attempts, 20th worst in the nation.
Combined with a rushing attack that was 80th in the nation in yards per rushing attempt after being 14th in 2022, it was clear the offensive line took a massive step backward in 2023.
On paper, everyone along the offensive line is eligible and could come back in 2024.
However, no one in Gator Nation would feel good about Florida football if changes aren’t made along the line. But it is one thing to identify George, Richie Leonard, and, at times, Austin Barber as liabilities; it’s another to have a solution.
Waiting in the wings are Caden Jones and Roderick Kearney, who both redshirted the 2023 season. There is still fleeting hope the Gators can gain the commitment of five-star offensive tackle Jordan Seaton.
Some believe the unit would be fine if Billy Napier would let go of offensive line coaches Rob Sale and Darnell Stapleton, along with strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke. There is no word on what further shakeups will happen within the staff.
But beyond that, the only other solution for Florida football is to hit the transfer portal.
And spoiler alert, it isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card like some other position groups.
Big guys in small quantities
Some of the key contributors of the 2023 season were players Florida snagged the last couple of seasons from the transfer portal. Graham Mertz, Ricky Pearsall, Montrell Johnson, and Cam Jackson were among some of the better players Napier has had transfer into the Florida football program.
But finding top-tier offensive linemen isn’t as simple.
The above-mentioned George was from Alabama, was considered a top 30 lineman in the portal last year, and turned out to be a liability more times than not. Mazzccua was considered a top 20 get among linemen.
So, while a couple of notable linemen have already hit the portal this offseason that Napier will have his eye on, the number of quality linemen that will be available will be scant.
Napier and whoever is the offensive line coach in 2024 must identify one of the few golden tickets in the portal and back up the Brinks truck for them.
Because without improvements, Mertz and DJ Lagway will continue to run for their life in 2024.
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