2023 Florida Football Position Preview: Offensive Line (Guards/Centers)

The lone returning starter on the offensive line at Florida this season will be center Kingsley Eguakun. However, Billy Napier still has to replace both starting guards in 2023 after losing O’Cyrus Torrence to the NFL and Ethan White to the transfer portal.

Naturally, Billy Napier hit the portal himself to find some experienced talent to fill out the interior of his offensive line. There’s bound to be some dropoff from last year’s line that only allowed 13 sacks during the regular season and helped rushers average 5.8 yards per carry, though.

Napier will also use some of the team’s homegrown talent, and some freshmen are also starting to make a name for themselves. Of course, it takes more than five linemen to get through a game, so plenty of the backups should see action.

Here’s a look at every center and guard on Florida’s 2023 fall roster.

Starting Center: No. 65 Kingsley Eguakun (R-Jr.*)

UAA Communications photo by Isabella Marley
UAA Communications photo by Isabella Marley

Kingsley Eguakun will be the leader of Florida’s offensive line this season, given that he’s the only returning starter from last year’s squad left on the team. Eguakun also finished with the worst offensive grade (55.6) on the team last year, including backups.

While his pass blocking remained respectable (67.4), Eguakun’s run blocking (59.7) was far from elite. He allowed a team-high 15 hurries, but that’s over 830 snaps at center.

This will be Eguakun’s third year starting for Florida, and it’s his fifth year of college ball despite being a junior (thanks, COVID). If there were ever a time for him to break out, this would be it.

Eguakun did suffer an injury at the end of fall camp, but he’s expected to start the season opener against Utah. Hopefully, he’s able to stay injury-free for the rest of the year.

Starting Left Guard: No. Richie Leonard IV (Jr.)

UAA Communications photo by Isabella Marley
UAA Communications photo by Isabella Marley

Richie Leonard IV has played all over the interior offensive line for Florida over the past two seasons. He spent most of his time at left guard last year and is projected to stay there as a starter for the 2023 season.

Leonard’s numbers weren’t great last year. A 64.6 offensive grade from PFF is slightly above average, but his 56.1 pass-blocking grade was the worst on the team. A 69.4 run blocking is relatively strong, but his deficiencies can’t be overlooked.

Although he’s undersized and the numbers aren’t elite, Leonard has a good chance to be one of the anchors of Florida’s offensive line this season. He’s a third-year player and is willing to adapt to stay on the field.

Starting Right Guard: No. 54 Micah Mazzccua (R-Jr.)

Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner
Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner

Micah Mazzccua started 10 games for the Baylor Bears a season ago and finished the year as the second-best guard in the Big 12, according to Pro Football Focus. Napier plucked Mazzccua from the transfer portal with two years of eligibility remaining and has inserted him into the starting right guard spot that O’Cyrus Torrence left vacant after being drafted in the second round.

There’s a bit of pressure on Mazzccua to step in and produce immediately, just as Torrence did, but there’s no guarantee he’ll live up to those rather lofty expectations. Mazzccua is a stronger run blocker than he is a pass blocker, which should mean the running backs pick his lane more often than not.

If he can build on his sophomore campaign and handle SEC defensive linemen, Mazzccua will be the second successful guard transfer at Florida under Napier in as many years.

Mazzccua is another Gator who was banged up during spring ball, and he required surgery. He was expected to stay at left tackle at one point but is now the likely starting right tackle as fall camp closes.

Backup Guard: No. 77 Knijeah Harris (Fr.)

Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner
Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner

Rated a three-star recruit by most services out of high school, Knijeah Harris was always intended to be the hidden gem of Florida’s 2023 freshman class. But opportunity might come knocking much earlier than expected for Harris, who has emerged as the team’s backup guard during a strong summer and fall camp.

Coaches noticed how quickly Harris adjusted to the speed of the college game when he took first-team reps at left guard with Mazzccua out. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Harris on the field during the season opener against Utah as a backup or reserve.

Backup Center: No. 66 Jake Slaughter (R-So.)

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Sun;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Sun</a>
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

Jake Slaughter made his collegiate debut against Samford 2021 before redshirting and then appeared in all 13 games for Florida last season in a special teams role. This year, Slaughter has stepped into the backup center role for the team after playing 19 snaps at the position in 2022.

Slaughter should play a key role on Florida’s offensive line, and he could even threaten to take snaps from Eguakun if he continues on his upward trajectory.

Injured: No. 75 Kamryn Waites (R-So.)

UAA Communications photo by Ashley Ray
UAA Communications photo by Ashley Ray

After playing three games and redshirting during his freshman year at Louisiana, Kamryn Waites followed his head coach to the University of Florida with hopes of starting in the SEC down the line.

Primed for a breakout year in 2023, Waites tore his Achilles during the spring and is just now returning to practice. At 6-foot-8-inches and 364 pounds, Waites makes the other linemen look tiny, and he fits the mold that Napier and the offensive line coaches seem to love.

The question is whether he’ll play this year or not, though.

An Achilles rupture typically limits athletes from playing sports for 6-9 months, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery. Even a quick recovery would put Waites at a mid-season return. As a developmental piece to start with, is it worth rushing him back?

Reserves: No. 52 Jalen Farmer (R-Fr.), No. 56 Christian Williams (R-Fr.) and No. 64 Riley Simonds (R-Jr.*)

Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner
Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner

Christian Williams and Jalen Farmer combined for 38 snaps last season as true freshmen and are both still looking to make a name for themselves in Florida’s offensive line rotation. Williams was on the field for nine snaps at left guard, and Farmer spent 29 at right guard, but either player could switch sides depending on the team’s depth situation.

Riley Simonds is a fifth-year junior who didn’t play at all last year following a 10-snap season in 2021. He isn’t likely to shoot up the depth chart anytime soon, but Florida could call his name if injuries take their toll.

Freshmen: No. 71 Roderick Kearney (Fr.) and No. 53 Bryce Lovett (Fr.)

Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner
Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner

Roderick Kearney, a four-star recruit out of high school, played tackle during his prep years, but it looks like he’ll be moving to the interior at Florida. Kearney has been spotted snapping the ball as a potential third-string option. He has draft potential, but this could still be a development year for Kearney.

Another freshman who’s still catching up to the speed of the college game is Bryce Lovett. He played tackle in high school but is switching to the interior at Florida. He’s also young for his age, which means he’ll naturally be behind the curve a bit.

Walk-Ons: No. 73 Mark Pitts (R-So.), No. 59 Hayden Clem (R-So.) and No. 72 Bryan Rosenberg (Fr.)

UAA Communications photo by Tim Casey
UAA Communications photo by Tim Casey

Mark Pitts walked on to the team in the summer of 2020 and has seen more success than most in his position. He made four appearances on special teams during the 2021 season, including the opener against Florida Atlantic. He played high school ball nearby Buchholz High.

Hayden Clem (above, No. 79) has yet to make an appearance with the Gators after joining the team as a walk-on in the spring of 2021.

Bryan Rosenberg is new to the team after walking over the summer. He also played prep ball at Buchholz.

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Check out the rest of our position previews:

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire