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Taking grad transfer about giving young O-line time

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With spring practice in the books for the Florida Gators, we’re taking a look back at some of the key topics and storylines coming out of spring ball to give you our take on the issue.

Today we examine the offensive line and what taking a graduate transfer would really be all about for the Gators.

First off, it’s not exactly a secret that Dan Mullen is in the market. He made that abundantly clear after the spring game.

“We have to go out, hit the road recruiting, because we are not complete at that position yet at all for this season,” Mullen said, before later saying they would absolutely take a graduate transfer.

“Not that I don’t like our young players and where they’re coming in their development, but when you’re looking at all these guys, we’d love to get a grad transfer come in and add somebody that can come in and we’d feel comfortable that has that experience and can come in and play immediately for us.”

Given Mullen’s philosophy on transfers — he basically only takes them if they can play right away, he’s not big on taking transfers who might take a couple years to develop — many have assumed that means Mullen is targeting a guy who can replace a current starter.

That may be the case, of course, but it doesn’t have to be.

As we noted a couple times throughout the spring and on the Swamp247 Podcast, Florida’s starting offensive line actually looked like it could become a capable unit at various points this spring. Experience isn’t nearly as big an issue as a simple lack of game reps; Florida had a redshirt senior, three redshirt juniors and a redshirt freshman starting this spring.

That’s plenty enough experience that those guys should be able to pick things up relatively quickly as they begin to get more and more game reps.

The bigger issue and what we’d suggest is the real impetus behind wanting to take a graduate transfer or two is what happens behind that group.

In the spring game, both Brett Heggie and Jean Delance were dealing with ankle injuries that clearly hobbled them. And while that’s fine in a setting where you can control how hard the defense is going after the quarterback, you don’t exactly have that luxury in the fall.

So what do you do if one of those starters is clearly ailing to the point he’s become ineffective on Saturdays during the season? Well, as of now the likely backups are basically all freshmen (T.J. Moore being the lone exception).

Taking a grad transfer, to us, isn’t as much about finding a guy who can definitely start as it is pushing those freshmen just a bit further away from being the very next guys up.

That may seem to go against Mullen’s philosophy on transfers to some degree, but the truth of the matter is there usually aren’t that many high-caliber offensive linemen transferring. Mullen’s already said he wants one, though, so the Gators are definitely looking.

Don’t be surprised if Florida’s starting offensive line next fall is the same as it was this spring.

However, if the Gators can add a veteran or two capable of stepping in in a pinch, the line will be in much, much better shape than it was exiting spring ball. That should be the goal. Round out the depth chart as best you can with a player who won’t take up a scholarship beyond 2019. If he happens to be a starter, even better.

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