No. 10 Florida braces for LSU's formidable front

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida has bragged about its offensive line for months.

The 10th-ranked Gators have repeatedly

called the unit the strength of the team, a group of guys who have made

steady improvement

since spring practice in March.

They're supposedly bigger, stronger and more experienced — and the main reason Florida's offense has made strides in coach

Will Muschamp's second season.

How the line performs against No. 4 LSU on Saturday will either validate or negate all that chatter.

"You go block this front you've done something," Muschamp said. "They're very good. They've recruited well. They've got depth.

They're big, fast and physical."

Defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam

Montgomery are widely considered among the top pass rushers in the

country, and mammoth

defensive tackles Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson make it

difficult for opponents to get much going up the middle. Together,

they're a big reason the Tigers (5-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference)

rank fourth in the country in total defense.

The Gators (4-0, 3-0) know they will have their hands full Saturday.

They also believe they're up for the challenge.

"Yes, we're going against some better athletes," center Jon Harrison said. "But we've come a far ways from last year. We're

more meshed as a unit. We've been working this whole offseason for a situation like this."

Florida's offensive line certainly has progressed from last season.

The Gators were mostly mediocre up front in 2011, failing to consistently open holes for the running game and giving up almost

as many sacks (23) as the offense scored touchdowns (30).

Things reached a low in late November when Muschamp called his team soft — clearly taking a shot at the O-line — following

an embarrassing loss to rival Florida State.

The Gators finished 7-6, barely avoiding the program's first losing season since 1979 and prompting some major offseason changes

aimed at rebuilding the trenches.

Muschamp hired offensive line coach Tim

Davis to replace Frank Verducci, who followed former offensive

coordinator Charlie

Weis to Kansas, and completely revamped the team's weight-lifting

program in hopes of getting bulkier and brawnier linemen.

Through four games, the line has looked considerably better.

The Gators are averaging nearly 225 yards a

game on the ground, and that includes three games against conference


Senior Mike Gillislee ranks second in the league in rushing,

averaging a little more than 100 yards a game and giving Florida

a more versatile ground attack than diminutive backs Chris Rainey

and Jeff Demps did the last two years.

And although Jeff Driskel has been sacked 12 times, eight of them came at Texas A&M and most of those were the quarterback's

fault and not on the line.

But LSU will provide the ultimate measuring stick.

"It's not that maybe they're sacking you all

the time, but it's just moving you around in the pocket," Florida

offensive coordinator

Brent Pease said. "When you start having to move, your eyes become

different as a quarterback on where you're trying to focus

and throwing on time and rhythm. It's disruptive."

To counter LSU's front, Pease plans to move Driskel.

"They got speed on the edges and power in

the middle," Pease said. "You can't just sit back there and expect to

pass the ball

every play. So you got to kind of move him around. You got sprint

out. You got to roll him a little bit. You got to kind of

change where he's going to be so they can't zero in."

The Tigers dominated last year's meeting in Baton Rouge, holding Florida to 213 yards, getting a sack, intercepting two passes

by freshman Jacoby Brissett and winning 41-11.

The Gators failed to sustain drives and didn't get much going on the ground until the game was out of reach. If things are

going to be any different Saturday, Florida's offensive line could be the key.

"They're way more physical," Gators defensive tackle Omar Hunter said of his teammates across the line. "They come off the

ball and they will hit you. They will definitely hit you. I think they'll match up pretty well. LSU has a great defensive

line. Our offensive line has been prepared well and they're really ready for this game."