Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cracks in the Armor

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cracks in the Armor

Article excerpt

GAINESVILLE -- They're blitzed on the field, and they're

pressured off it.

They've been beaten physically and battered mentally. With two

big games remaining this season, the members of the offensive

line at the University of Florida have to find a way to get off

the deck.

Success and swagger quickly have turned to despair and


"When you have a bad game," said freshman guard Ryan Kalich,

"you kind of start thinking twice about how you play."

Injuries, suspensions and position changes have made for an

uneasy second half of the season. It began early last month

against lowly Vanderbilt, and continued against South Carolina.

Last week, it hit rock bottom. The line was embarrassed by

Southeastern Conference Championship game against Alabama

knowing a similar scenario is a possibility. The Tide, annually

boasting one of the nation's best defenses, has one of the best

front sevens in college football. Instead of hgetting better,

things could actually get worse for UF's beleagured offensive


Confidence, now more than ever, is the key phrase this week.

"Confidence is something you have to teach day by day," Florida

line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens said. " You talk to them about the

emotional part, mental part and physical part. The criticism is

going to be there no matter how well you play. The only thing

they can control is the way they play.

"The last game is behind them. The only thing they can control

is the future."

The question: Is the psychological damage already done? Every

week, Florida's line is graded, with 80 percent or better the


Through 11 games this season, only one current starter --

All-America candidate Donnie Young -- has an average grade

higher than 80 percent.

"When you lose one player it's a big thing. But when you lose

two players, that's major," Young said of UF's injuries to

all-star center Jeff Mitchell and tackle Zach Piller. "We've

even lost three players at one time. We haven't been able to

jell and come together as an offensive line like we should have,

and we've really struggled. …

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