FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
During the beginning weeks of the off-season, Inside the Gators will take an in-depth look at how last season went for Florida's 2019 signees who redshirted with our Redshirt Report series. Today, we focus on how this past season went for offensive lineman William Harrod.
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With the Gators facing a steep rebuild along the offensive line, the 2019 season saw several freshmen receive valuable game reps.
Ethan White played in six games, started the Vanderbilt game and seemed to improve each week. Michael Tarquin and Kingsley Eguakun played in multiple games and redshirted. Even Riley Simonds got into a game despite being the only lineman in the class to not enroll in January.
Despite being the second-highest ranked of the group coming out of National Christian Academy in Maryland and enrolling early, tackle Will Harrod only played against Vanderbilt en route to a redshirt year.
Despite the extremely limited game action, Harrod didn’t get frustrated, his high school coach, Andre Kates, said. He knows that even the most talented linemen often struggle to get onto the field as freshmen. It takes a rare combination of elite talent and opportunity for a freshman lineman to make a substantial impact.
“He knew what to expect when it comes to winter conditioning and the running and the tempo and just being bigger, faster and stronger,” Kates said. “He was the bigger, faster and stronger guy in high school, so he would dominate the guy that’s in front of him. Him going to the SEC, it was our understanding that it’s going to be hard.
“If you’re playing as a freshman in college, especially in the SEC, you’ve got to be damn good to do it. That’s not normal.”
Not that he needed motivation to get through the year, but all he needed to do was look at the upperclassmen around him. Six of the seven players who started on the offensive front this season redshirted at some point in their careers.
Harrod thought he was going to get into a few more games this season, but things didn’t work out, Kates said. Importantly, Harrod understood why he didn’t get into those games. While he knows all of the plays, he’s still learning some of the specific types of blocks and how fast he needs to get to his block.
“In high school, you run an outside zone, an inside zone play, you’re running behind him every single play,” Kates said. “So now in college, you have to worry about different things, have to worry about trap, have to worry about power, have to worry about different run schemes that he has to learn how to understand. I think we kind of did a disservice to him, not teaching him all of the run-blocking schemes, which in high school I don’t see a bunch of guys doing. I think the toughness part was there, though.”
Enrolling in January was beneficial to Harrod in several respects, Kates said. First, National Christian Academy only had about six linemen, so he was forced to play him even if he was lackadaisical in practice. With much better depth at UF, he’ll be forced to give great effort and pay close attention to detail just to have a chance at getting on the field. Second, it allowed him more time to get into better shape. He’s now listed at 334 pounds after arriving at 312 pounds, and he has shed some fat.
“I think he understands now the hard work,” Kates said. “Just talking to some of the coaches and listening to some of the stories that we all laughed at, of him coming in and almost blanking out, passing out, dead last in conditioning drills. Now, he’s trying to work his way toward the front in the conditioning lines and things like that. That’s the growth that they’ve seen in him also.”
Kates described Harrod as a smart lineman who “can have some dog in him at times.” UF offensive line coach John Hevesy told Kates that Harrod was really good at catching onto the plays quickly. The next step in his development is to become more technically sound and keep making progress in the weight room.
Kates saw him take gradual strides throughout his high school career. He began high school primarily focused on basketball and gave up two sacks as a freshman. As a sophomore, he focused more heavily on football and gave up just one sack. He didn’t give up any sacks in his junior and senior seasons.
Kates expects him to make similar progress in college. After only playing in one game in 2019, there’s nowhere to go but up.
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