Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Summers Says OL Is Moving Forward And Making Strides

Since offensive line coach Mike Summers joined the Gators in 2014, he says he hasn’t seen an offense like this one. From their young age to their tight camaraderie they have built over the course of the season, this group is different. But that doesn’t excuse them from the scrutiny they face week to week.

The Gators returned starters all across the line this season, but that doesn’t mean they are the most experienced bunch. Even with many young players on the front, improvements are beginning to show. Last season, the Gator offense led the FBS in most sacks surrendered at 45 through 14 games. Now, they are tied for the 12th fewest in college football with only nine sacks through seven appearances.

Communication and Camaraderie 

Sep 10, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier congratulates offensive lineman Cameron Dillard (54) after they scored against the Kentucky Wildcats during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier congratulates offensive lineman Cameron Dillard (54) after they scored against the Kentucky Wildcats during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Summers attributes much of their success to the bonds that have grown throughout this season. To Summers, communication is key and that has begun to really develop. He noted that this can be difficult with young players because they are trying to take care of themselves and make sure they are in the right spot. From summer to fall camp and how they practice every day, the offensive line coach has begun to see these guys pull together. 

At the beginning of the season, the linemen may have known who they have and point to who they have, but now Summers says, they are much more vocal. It even translates to when they are coming off the field, talking on the sideline and in between each series. He says the feedback he is getting from them is more and more accurate.

Leadership Carries Them Forward

It’s taken time for this tight-knit group to grow and much of this is attributed to the two that touch the ball every snap: center Cam Dillard and quarterback Luke Del Rio. Every position group needs  a consistent performer who is always going to be there and for the Gators, that’s Dillard. Summers says he might not be an overpowering or dominant center, but he provides a comfort level for all 11 guys. 

Del Rio was also a name Summers often mentioned in terms of helping the team gel. Since the first week of season, every Thursday night the quarterback takes his protectors during the game out to dinner. Come game time, he’s all business and Summers said having this type of quarterback brings everyone up.

Growth of Martez Ivey

Offensive lineman Martez Ivey was named SEC offensive lineman of the week after his performance against Georgia. A true freshman starting in the SEC last season, Summers praised Ivey as a gifted athlete with great movement skills, although Summers did note sometimes Ivey can be  too aggressive and gets overextended. Despite Ivey sometimes having a hard time sustaining his strong initial contact, Summers says his understanding and knowledge of the offense has really grown.  Ivey’s ability to play both tackle and guard gives the offense flexibility moving forward. Summers said he embraces the fact there is a lot more work to be done and that there are no limits as to how good Ivey can be.

 Caption:Oct 15, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio (14) huddles up with teammates to call a play against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Missouri Tigers 40-14. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Caption: Oct 15, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio (14) huddles up with teammates to call a play against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Missouri Tigers 40-14. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

They Won’t Stop Building

From here on out, the Gators will face great defensive fronts from their opponents. According to Summers, it will take controlling the game to win. Pass protection, keeping the quarterback clean, and a continuation of their effective third down production will be key as everything becomes more important.

Another factor that needs to develop more is explosive runs. Only against Missouri have the Gators had big runs that broke the game open, and Summers said “that part of our game needs to start to show up, that could let the offensive production take off.”

Even amidst what some may think is a thankless job, Summers is proud of his line.  He said his guys have assumed the responsibility of being the engine that drives the offense. In response to the critics, Summers simply said if you really want to know what goes on in a football game, then watch an offensive lineman.

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