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Florida Gators Football: Keep Your Eyes on OT Jawaan Taylor

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The huge freshman has been a key contributor.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida's offensive line had a miserable day against UMass in Week 1.

The Gators came away with an excellent 57.1% success rate on runs prior to garbage time, but they also only had one carry of at least ten yards. The backs were staying on schedule, but they were having to break tackles far too often to do so.

Part of the problem was a bad day from left guard Martez Ivey, which offensive line coach Mike Summers chalked up as an effect of missing practice over the offseason.

Ivey did play considerably better against Kentucky, which solidified that spot on the line.

The one place on the offensive line where there has been a position battle is right tackle. Sophomore Fred Johnson has started both games on that end of the line, but he gave way to true freshman Jawaan Taylor for a couple of drives at the end of each half against the Minutemen.

Johnson had a decent enough game in Week 1, but things got away from him on his final drive of the game. On 2nd-and-10 from the UMass 18, blitzing LB Peter Ngobidi beat him to the inside. Johnson tackled Ngobidi to prevent Luke Del Rio from taking a huge shot, but he earned a holding penalty in the process. Two plays later on 3rd-and-13, another blitzing linebacker in De'Sean Downey beat him to the outside. Downey hit Del Rio's arm as the quarterback was drawing his arm back to throw, forcing a fumble that Del Rio fell on.

Taylor came into the game after that for the final two drives, and the Gators scored on both. Big No. 65 didn't miss a block on those drives as best as I could tell, and he had a nasty block on a Jordan Scarlett carry that popped a UMass helmet off.

Credit: SEC Network

Last week, Johnson only played extensively on Florida's first drive of the contest. Kentucky's rush got to Del Rio twice on that series. The first time was when DE Denzil Ware beat Johnson to the outside.

Credit: CBS

The second came when DE Alvonte Bell simply pushed Johnson back until he could get a hand on Del Rio.

Credit: CBS

From there, Taylor took over and played almost every snap at right tackle the rest of the game. Not coincidentally, the Wildcats only even came close to sacking Del Rio once thereafter, and it was due to a miscommunication on the left side between LT David Sharpe and Ivey.

It's not easy to pick out highlights when nearly every play is Taylor just holding off his man or paving the way forward, but I did find a couple. He was alert in picking up an extra rusher on a third down late in the second quarter that allowed Del Rio to find Brandon Powell for the first down.

Credit: CBS

It's uncommon to find true freshman who can deal with a blitzer like Taylor does here. Del Rio would toss a touchdown to Powell on the ensuing play.

Early in the fourth quarter, Taylor did a good job getting upfield to block on a screen that Lamical Perine housed from 28 yards out.

Credit: CBS

Taylor is already a mountain of a man, listed at 6'5", 340 lbs. He wasn't exactly going up against Derek Barnett or Myles Garrett with UMass and Kentucky, but Florida's offensive line has looked excellent with him in at right tackle. If he can keep his level of play up throughout the season, go ahead and pencil him in for the SEC All-Freshman team.