The Gators needed more bodies in the middle of the defensive line. Ivie showed flashes in limited reps at defensive end late in the 2013 season, but they liked the thought of him bulking up and creating pass rush up the middle. It took a month after the season for Ivie to heal after a scooter accident forced him to get stitches in his foot and miss the Florida State game. But when the season ended, he knew the weight needed to come quickly.
So he started to eat more. Ivie played at 273 pounds as a freshman last season. Now in fall camp, he’s up to 288 pounds and has been the most improved defensive lineman since the spring.
“(The added weight) is just more power,” Joey Ivie said. “I haven’t really slowed down much. I’ve kept my speed. That weight has helped me power-wise.”
And it’s easy to see on the practice field. Ivie is holding his spot at the line of scrimmage and isn’t getting pushed backwards by the offensive line. The added weight is a big reason why that’s the case. He’s strong and more capable of taking on offensive guards like 350-pounder Trenton Brown, who Ivie calls the toughest on the line to pass rush against.
His teammates are noticing the improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive tackle was a problem last season after Dominique Easley went down, and that forced the linebackers to be less productive because they had offensive linemen reaching the second level with ease. Ivie’s disrupting play could change that this season.
"He's been playing very well,” Florida linebacker Michael Taylor said. “He's been busting his butt. He's been going hard every day. He's been making a lot of plays. We had our first scrimmage (Sunday), and he was player of the game for the scrimmage. That just speaks volumes of how far he's come since he got here, and he's been playing very well. Look for 91 to make a lot of plays in the fall."
Ivie sees it as responding to a challenge from the Florida coaches. Will Muschamp made it clear going into the fall that the depth on both lines of scrimmage were the most important battles in camp. The Gators simply needed more bodies they could trust.
Proving he can be one of those, Ivie will get much more playing time this fall than he did last season when he made four tackles.
“They’re more pushing us towards the fact that we need to step up because they’re counting on us this year,” Ivie said. “A lot of us younger guys have been stepping it up.
“I came in knowing that I would have a big opportunity and have to take advantage of it.”
There’s more depth coming from behind Ivie, too. He sees multiple young players making an impact in camp that should give the line much better depth this year, especially at defensive tackle.
“We have a lot of players stepping up, like Jay-nard Bostwick and Caleb Brantley is coming along,” Ivie said. “We have potential to have that rotation coming in. It depends on how strongly we finish up this camp.”