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Friday August 10, 2012 A lot riding on the Gators o-linemen ... and they want it that way

Updated: 10:09am, August 10

Jon Halapio GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback.

Who’s it going to be?

There’s no question that was the No. 1 question -- Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel? -- on the minds of Florida football fans as the Gators rolled through the opening week of practice. Makes sense. We’ve all heard the saying, “If you have two quarterbacks then you really don’t have one,” right?

Perspective: the Gators had four last season.

UF needs stability and consistency at the position. Saturday’s first preseason scrimmage will provide Coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease some key data in the QB competition. But let’s face it. Whether it’s Brisset-Driskel or Driskel-Brissett, there needs to be some positive activity going on in front of those guys.

No need reminding the Florida offensive linemen of that.

“We struggled a lot last year. The whole offense did,” said junior offensive guard Jon Halapio (pictured left). “But we made a commitment and it started way back in the offseason. We are going to be much improved.”

At the top of the goals list for Muschamp and Pease is to roll out a physical, no-nonsense, north-south running game -- not that get-on-the-edge stuff with smaller, speedy backs -- that can compete with the heavyweights of the Southeastern Conference. Can’t do it without a push up front.

“We set the tempo,” offensive line coach Tim Davis said.

That’s for everything. If the offense is getting a push and making positive yards, whoever the quarterback turns out to be is going to be successful. That's Offensive Football 101.

The commitment to that straight-ahead approach in 2012 has been on-going since the 2011 season came to a close. The hiring of new strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman and his emphasis on explosive Olympic-style training fashioned to football. It quickly became a culture in the Gators' massive weight room.

“We are a confident group, but not cocky group,” sophomore offensive tackle Chaz Green said. “We feel we can do whatever the coaches ask us to do.”

Which means being better than eighth in the Southeastern Conference in running the football in 2011. During a four-game losing streak in October against Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia, the Gators averaged just 43.7 yards per game -- and only 1.5 per carry.

Pease is on record saying the offensive line will be vastly improved. Plus, the former Boise State coordinator plans to do his part to put the offense in better position to succeed by junking up shifts and formations.

But in the end, whether it’s Mike Gillislee or Mack Brown or Chris Johnson or even freshman Matt Jones carrying the ball, it’ll be about establishing a physical, moving-forward identity.

“When you put your hand on the ground, and you go downhill, I think it creates a toughness about you,’’ Davis said. “I think it helps your defense. It helps your offense. It’s written on the line [of scrimmage], ‘We’ve got to get four yards.’ That’s kind of a moniker of ours.”

The linemen are probably reciting it in their sleep.

The quarterbacks in their dreams.

“We want that responsibility,” Halapio said. “We love run-blocking. We want to block the man in front of us and prove our manhood. Go ahead. Call us out. It will only make us better and only make us want to accomplish and achieve even more.”

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