Florida Gators Offensive Line Coach John Hevesy spoke with local media on Tuesday. He reflected on running the ball, Malik Davis, old faces in new roles and more. As a subscriber of GatorBait Magazine, we are offering this full transcript for your perusal.
How much emphasis has been on just creating more of consistent run game and how integral that’s going to be?
“I mean, it's been a big focus to me, um, you know, and with the kids is just, we have to be balanced we have to be able to run the ball to be successful. Obviously running the ball, gives us our opportunity to be a great play action team and to be able to throw the ball. But I think running the game, everything for us is always to stay you know ahead of the change, ahead of schedule, which means to run the ball on first down we got to get four yards we got to be efficient, you know, again, the big runs will happen but I think the biggest thing for us in the run game is to be efficient, is to get four yards on every run play.
"So it puts us in a second and six, if we're in a second-and-eight, to put us in a third and four, you're going to put us in situations where we have to be able to stay on schedule and be able to utilize our, our own repertoire, not be able to use play action with the run game I think that's the biggest thing. I think we have great play action, we got great obviously skill guys, but to be able to use that play action, with the run game is going to help us with that. Without the run game the play action doesn't really help us too much so I think the biggest thing in the run game is just being consistent. For me to in the run game with our guys is, you know, finishing blocks, taking care of everything which I think—you go back and look at last season, just you're off a little bit on a lot of things, which to me, you major emphasis obviously not in spring but just as we went through the, all the offseason with the zoom meetings and going into camp was, you know, here's the things we're off on that I think we've done a great job of so far in camp. You know now obviously we're going to see starting next week of how it's going to fall.”
Malik [Davis] getting back to full strength, Lorenzo [Lingard’s] eligibility. Do you feel like you have a pretty good stable of running backs?
"I think we got a great stable of backs. I think, really, you know, starting with obviously [Dameon] Pierce is the first one, he’s sort of returning but I think the biggest one to watch has been Malik, you know watch Malik, who was a guy I think in the injury, he's been injury plagued the first two years we were here but to really go back, when we walked in here a couple years ago was—you saw his film from that year before, and say hey here's this guy and I think you're watching, we're watching him during camp and that guy really that we saw two years ago—running how he runs, his pad level, his feet. His quickness and everything he's done, he's done a great job in camp. And then you know, obviously you've Lorenzo, you've got Nayquon [Wright]. So there is a great stable of backs back there. You just, you get a chance to see them all and you know, to point out one of them—I think that big the thing is the group. It's been nice to watch them run the ball.”
Transition for Stewart Reese, where do you have him playing?
"He played obviously guard and tackle, he's played guard and tackle. He played tackle whenever it was, three years ago for me there, played guard and tackle there, so I think the one thing, as big as he is he's a very versatile guy. So he's able to do both, and been playing both, so it's a good thing for us to have, it's a good problem. I think the one thing with him is just bringing in his personality, is, there's no ego with Stewart at all. He kinda goes along, which I think obviously any time you bring in an older guy, and you sit there and say 'Hey, they played for me before', that kids have, 'What's this going to bring to us', and I think, I guess within two weeks, I mean, he knows everybody, he's friends with everybody, and everybody likes him, so he's going to go along, he's going to take care of his business and do his work. But again, he's started for three years in this league, so he can give the kids that haven't played behind him even more stories, of how, Stone, Brett and Jean have basically played a year. Stu having three years in this league, to go down and say "Hey, here's more stories, here's different things, different perspective on what it is to play in this league', with having a lot of young guys between Ethan, Kingsley, Michael, Will and all those young guys, is, 'Here's how you prepare'. They can watch him because he doesn't have an ego to say 'I'm here for this, I'm here for that', they can talk to him, and he'll talk, he'll give them everything he's got so they can learn from him, which has been great to have."
Stone Forsythe progress at tackle, where has his game evolved?
"I think the biggest thing I've seen with Stone is just, very intelligent kid on the football field. Very high in football intelligence. I think the one thing you've seen is just obviously using his hands, and just playing with quicker and harder hands, and a little harder, quicker feet. And that was the big thing we were going into the offseason working on, and obviously it got cut a little bit. Him doing it on his own, which I think he's done a great job of through this camp and through this part of the season so far. Again, like anything, it can also turnover gameday next week, but to me, I think, he's become a great leader with that group. He's another one, there's not an ego involved I don't think in any of my guys, so he can talk to the young guys, the young guys see him as being a guy, so they'll listen to him and talk to him. When they see not only what he does on the field, the way he prepares himself for practice, meetings, everything he does, which is great to have those guys around, especially, you know, with, you add Stone, you add Stew, Brett Heggie's become that guy. Jean's becoming that guy. Really those four upperclassmen have become great leaders for my young guys. Now it's the young guys just obviously check your ego in and make sure you're always listening to the older guys because they have the experience.”
MORE TIME TO GO BACK, WHAT WAS BIGGEST ISSUE LAST YEAR?
"I think just little things. I mean you saw really as the season went on it got better, but you see really good part of the season was just the gamesmanship of things and things adjusting in the game, things happening in the game that you don't have that experience to -- whether they're moving or pressuring or whatever they're doing -- you just saw, 'OK, we're off here.' Maybe miscommunication of a call, missed steps and what you're doing with those movements, just understanding of the whole offense. Which, again, it's not all big glaring, but you saw it in certain situations, in really key situations you're kind of frustrated because you know what you're doing but (snaps fingers) how fast it happens is, that's where we were off. I think so far in camp, I think it's been really good with all the stuff that's getting thrown at us defensively, is for us to make the adjustments, for the kids to come back and sit and when you watch the film go, 'OK, got it,' and you see that turnover the next day and they bank that from the day before. Or it comes back three days later in camp and you say, 'Hey, remember we saw this?' 'Yeah, hey, we've got it. We understand it.'
"From those, the ones and even the twos you're seeing all those things that really they're getting. We talk about learning what to do, how to do it and why you're doing it. To me, they know what to do, they know how to do it. Very few MAs, missed assignments, that we've had in camp. It's more of the why. Do we understand why in outside zone we're pressing these landmarks, doing these things. Inside zone, protections of understanding safeties, understanding movement they're getting. They've got that now. Obviously, they've still got to go out and perform, but you see the mental part of the game is really excelled for them. Maybe it's just sitting on, for six months, on Zoom meetings. They saw enough of it to help them with that, so as you get into this that might be the best benefit of COVID: being on those Zoom meetings. They saw more film and more clips than they ever saw in their life, that you don't really have time for in a regular offseason."
WHAT ISSUES HAS YOUR DEFENSIVE LINE GIVEN YOU?
"I don't think it's anything; I don't ever look at one issue, one person, one thing. I think it's just a multitude of; it seems like we've been in camp, again, since July. So you're working on two and a half months of practice and seeing it, 'OK, OK,' so they're getting it, which now, for us, the thing I talked to them yesterday about was come Sunday we've got to drop everything our defense has done. You just start seeing a multitude, because you keep installing, you keep installing, you keep installing, so you're putting every defense in that you're going to see. And you won't see half of it throughout the season. So it's hard initially for us because you've got to change everything, you're teaching more exceptions than you are rules. But to me when you go back and look at it and digest it, now you're going OK, it becomes a better understanding of the whole offensive philosophy of what we're trying to do and understanding our schemes that now when you look back, 'OK, now we're going to see this front.' 'Well, coach, that's kind of simple.' Yeah, you're going to see simplicity. But to me it helps, it really helps with the multitude of defense my kids learn the philosophy and the whys of what we're doing offensively."
What has been the most difficult part of turning around the OL given the pandemic and weird offseason?
“I don’t think we treated it any different other than not getting to work the fundamentals. Really from March to July, you’re giving the kids everything to do and they’re doing it on their own. That was the hardest thing. You worry about when you give kids drills they're doing at home, they're doing it by themselves, or they find someone else to do them with and if they’re not doing it right, now I’ve gotta break six months of them doing something. I was very detailed and very slow process of giving them stuff to do on their own so it wasn’t going to be (a situation where) they’ve been doing it wrong for six months and I don’t have as much time to fix it when they get back here. To me, keep it very minimal. Send them the video. Send them the teaching tape. Send them all the things and then those Zoom meetings where we would watch, before we left the meeting, we would watch, hey here’s the drills we need to do and here’s all the coaching points. I would give them two or three things a day to do. It wasn’t, ‘hey, do these 18 things’ because I’m not going to get anything out of that. Here’s two things to go work today. Here’s two things to go work tomorrow. Each day was that way so they could really break it down and learn those little things and not put too much on them when they were on their own. The older guys I could probably do more with but the younger guys, all those redshirt freshmen that were here, how much they really got out of me because this was their first real offseason. I’ve gotta make sure I don’t screw this up, that I’m not giving them too much. I don’t want them to come back and then say I’ve got to break all these bad habits that they formed not having me around telling them right from wrong.”
Have you dealt with an OL of Ethan White's mass, agility/bend, and how much progress has he made?
"Obviously, you guys haven't obviously been here so, you really haven't seen Stewart Reese. Stewart's about six-five, I guess six-five-and-a-half, 360 [pounds]? But, yeah I mean Stewart was one and [former Mississippi State OL] Tyrie Phillips was another. Tyrie came to me - him and Stewart both came to me at about 390-something pounds, and they both ended up playing at about 330 [pounds] within the year. So, it was something that kind of going in taking Ethan [White], even the recruiting process was, 'okay here's where he's at'. You saw the same thing from Tyrie Phillips, from Stewart Reese out of high school that I saw in Ethan. So you say 'here's this large body, we just gotta get it down.' You know and obviously our strength staff does a great job with that to reform those bodies. You see, when Ethan came in here at 400 pounds to get him down and he's roaming about 330-333 [pounds] right now, and it's the same thing Stewart and Tyrie were that way. So, I have had those big bodies that to me is, when you look at them in the process of recruiting and seeing them going 'okay, here's this 390-pound kid that, he can move', you know, he just needs to lose some weight and get him in a program to get that - all the ability you have out of him. So, to me, I hate saying it's an easy thing for us but, I think you look at our strength coach, staff and what they've done and the nutrition to do what they can in teaching those kids how to eat, and once they see that lost weight and they see 'oh it's way easier to run around with less than 60 pounds on my body,' okay, and you start playing faster, you start playing better and the conditioning is much easier to run back-and-forth [on] the field. I did it with Ethan, I did it with all of them, 'here, here's a 60-pound bag, run across the field with it', and they realize this sucks, you know, great, don't put the weight back on. So, I've had plenty of experience with those big guys to drop their weight and get it out."
What have you seen out of Josh Bruan and other freshmen OL progress?
"Well, I think they've made great progress. I think the one thing Richie [Gouraige] and Josh [Braun] had coming in here was they at least had those five days of bowl practice. So they kind of got a little taste of it. But then obviously it was nothing different for them, they basically got back the same time Gerald [Mincey] did and Mark Pitts came in. But, it wasn't for them, I think, again, the way the Zoom worked was for them to really learn a lot of 'what'. I think in re-evaluating the last 20-something years of coaching is, that offseason for us you didn't have the time, spending the time, 'hey, I gotta teach him fundamentals, teach him fundamentals, teach him how to block,' do these things. Really, you can teach them, and what got taught in the whole thing was watching all the film, going through all the installs was, they learned what to do. You know, I think that's as a team you learn all those plays, so really when we got to camp they knew their assignments and how we installed it and did things with them was - they had a chance - they didn't have to be physical yet, they had a lot of reps at, 'okay, my assignments' and all those things, then we can work on technique, and as they saw the film of what to do, 'okay, I know what to do, coach, how do I do this better?' Well, great we're gonna work on that, we're gonna progress through that. So, you saw the fundamentals, you got to teach it while those first couple of days we had no pads and all this other stuff just to teach those things. But, they learned assignments, and now you can focus more on the technique of stuff which is the 'how'. And then again, through all the Zoom meetings and now they're getting the full dose of teaching it. The first thing is they've all came out and work every day, and that's the biggest thing. They came out to work every day and they've done a great job, all of them, of getting involved and really not missing a beat. You don't see a big glare. I think when you put them all together you see a little bit of glare because they're still often trying to figure everything out, but it's really been nice to have all of them. Yeah, and Josh is another one that's - I think he's roaming at the 350 [pounds] range, 350, 48. Guess I shouldn't say 350, they'll be pissed because I told them that, so 347 [pounds]."
Where is Braun playing?
“I think he can play tackle or guard. He’s been playing more guard right now. I think it’s a little simpler learning. Playing guard is a little simpler and not as much adjustments as playing tackle here. One thing for him to get comfortable and be able to use his body right now is he’s playing guard. To me, I think as we progress, he’ll have the ability, obviously, to do both. Really not much different than Stewart was. Stewart played tackle to start. Stewart redshirted, and then played tackle but can do both. Josh is obviously new this year. The rules and what you have this year, he can really soak in one thing and see what he can do. And then to me as we progress through this year, move him around.”
NFL seemed to have a lot of mental errors, per Mullen. What’s your level of concern there?
“I don’t think it’s a bunch of mental errors. Obviously the one thing is you haven’t played anyone else. We’re so, like I said earlier, the biggest thing in openers was we’re not playing our defense. We’ve had I don’t know how many practices now against our defense. Our kids kind of know what they’re doing. They can look at safeties. They can look at linebackers and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ Now we’re coming into play a team that, it’s a new staff. You go, OK, what are they going to do? You’ve got to prepare for a number of things. To me, again, for us, the biggest thing we’re focusing on is do what we do and stay in our base fundamentals and we should be fine.
“That’s what we have to do. We can't overthink and over-evaluated it because we don't know what they're doing. We have an idea, obviously, what they're going to be doing, but, to me, we’ve got to be able to just hang on our fundamental and hang on what we do as an offense to go there and not get caught up in anything more than to play three downs, four downs, we’re getting pressure. With our defense, I don’t think there’s one pressure we have not seen or any line stunt or line front that we haven't seen out of our defense, which, again, is great for us to see. Now, we go into this game and I can actually pull a couple things from one we’ve had in this camp. But again, each week they got to have a little bit of … they got to drop the, ‘Coach, last week they did this.’ Well, this team doesn't do that. So we're kind of going into the ending this week is start forgetting on defense. You’ve got to bank that and we’ve pull it out at one point. Once again, we got to talk so focusing on what we can bring this week coming up.”
On Trask’s progress:
“I can’t say he's come any farther because he’s doing the same things he did last year. I guess the head coach and Brian can answer more of those things. But I just look at he's done a great job obviously being a leader, the mental part of the game and what I see and what he does for us is just where his IDs, where his scheme, whether it's just being a leader in the huddle, being a leader on the line of scrimmage, wherever we're at, is just being a great leader and being a calm guy. He’s calm, cool, he’s collected, so he's never up and down, which I think is always great now as a group, to come that way with a year of experience. No one's too flustered about anything, and it starts at the quarterback not being flustered, ‘OK, that was my bad, let’s move on,’ whether it’s, ‘Hey, you’ve got to fix this’ or whether it’s a snap that’s off a little bit and it’s, ‘hey, snap here.’ So I think it's just a calming thing always having his back here. The rest of the stuff you can ask Coach Mullen or Brian about. I look at it as he’s gotten better at everything he’s done. But to me the great thing about watching him last year is he was very calm and just did his job. He did a great, great job managing for us.”