Through the first three games the Florida Gators offensive line has clearly struggled without redshirt sophomore Brett Heggie in the starting lineup. Recovering from a season-ending injury he suffered last year, Heggie missed all of spring camp and a majority of fall camp.
On Tuesday, Heggie discussed his health following seeing limited action in the Florida Gators (2-1, 0-1) 48-10 blowout victory a week ago.
“I’m back. I’m back to 100-percent as of probably like a week ago. I really started feeling a lot better and now I’m just focusing on everything else, fundamentals, things like that.”
Hearing Heggie say he’s 100-percent is a breath of fresh air for Gators fans. Florida’s offensive line struggles have limited the success of the new offense under Dan Mullen. Currently, Florida ranks 9th in the conference in rushing yard per game (185) and 13th in the conference in rushing touchdowns (3). With Heggie’s return, Florida’s rushing attack should improve throughout the course of the season.
Now, he’s fully healthy and determined to get back into the starting rotation that Florida desperately needs him a part of.
Offensive line coach John Hevesy said he is slowly rotating Heggie back onto the field.
"He played before the end of the game, he played two series in between in the second quarter, getting back to getting his feet wet playing in that environment. Got to increase each week going through getting him more reps.”
The lack of physicality and reaching the second level in the defense hasn’t appeared yet with this offensive line. Center Nick Buchannan discussed the importance of Heggie’s return.
"Well Brett Heggie, he's a tough physical player, you know what I'm saying. And that's what we're looking for on this offensive line. He can come in and give us good reps and we love it."
Despite limited action, Heggie has already shown his importance on the front line, creating the gaping hole on the left side for tailback Dameon Pierce to burst through on his 68-yard touchdown scamper one week ago.
With Heggie missing most of the off-season practices, he’s dealt with a quick learning curve in terms of understanding the new scheme. However, Heggie noted that he’s becoming more comfortable in the new offense.
“I’m comfortable with it. 100-percent now. I’ve been practicing, this is my fourth week. I’m comfortable with what they're doing.”
History speaks for itself in the Florida and Tennessee rivalry. The team whose rushing attack performs better wins the game. When Florida rolls into Rocky Top Saturday night, the Gators are hoping Heggie’s return can provide an immediate spark in their run game.