Halter helping Gators’ line

When Mason Halter knew he couldn’t play his final season at Fordham, he started the search to find the school he’d suit up for to play one more year of college football.

It was supposed to be Old Dominion. Halter signed non-binding scholarship papers with the school, but there was still an out if a major program came calling. Florida knew about him and the new staff recognized the need for immediate impact offensive linemen.

Christian Pace, who is the Florida offensive line graduate assistant, is the brother of Fordham tight ends coach Ian Pace. That’s where the connection was made and Halter wasted no time sending him film to Florida. He came on a visit and spent time with offensive line coach Mike Summers and head coach Jim McElwain, and there wasn’t much of a decision left to make. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up with his final year of eligibility.

“They’re great football minds, great people. It just seemed like a great fit to me,” Halter said.

There has been an adjustment on the field for Halter. He knew about the talent in the Southeastern Conference from watching it on television. He watched the defensive linemen and easily recognized how much faster they were than the competition he faced at Fordham. Before stepping on the field for practice at Florida last week, Halter knew he would need to adjust.

The explosiveness of the defensive linemen he has to block is something he’ll still getting used to every practice.

“I had something in my mind and it was very similar,” Halter said. “I’m playing at that level I think. They’re just bigger, faster, stronger, different kind of athlete (than the ones I faced at Fordham). There’s obviously a difference between a FCS athlete and an SEC athlete. The quickness and strength mostly.

"Definitely a big jump in talent. They’re quick and strong and can hit you with moves like that. I’ve been adjusting well and working reps and getting better. It’s coming more naturally now."

Adjusting to the level of speed from defensive linemen has been a challenge, but Halter is also having to play new spots on the offensive line. At Fordham, he only played left tackle. He now has to learn the right tackle position plus both guard spots. McElwain was clear during his press conference on Friday that Halter could be asked to play guard since freshman tackle Martez Ivey is starting to play well at tackle, but they still have weeks to make that decision before the season opener.

I’ve never played guard, but I can do it. I know the playbook well enough to do it,” Halter said. “I guess it’s the size of the athlete (is different while playing guard), but there’s not a real big difference. You’re still working with the same people, the guys next to you. It’s communication on the offensive line. If you’re communicating well, you’re going to play well."

The offensive line is a unique spot this fall. After the unit was gutted following last season, it’s a fresh start for the entire unit. Only one player on the roster -- Trip Thurman -- has ever started a game at Florida.

The Gators have seven scholarship freshmen out of 15 total scholarship players at the position. So while Halter is adjusting to a new program and teammates, he’s far from the only one doing that.

He does have college football experience and has been able to help the freshmen get ready for the fall. Like many other players have noted, Ivey and Tyler Jordan are the two catching his eye the most.

“On the offensive line, obviously Martez Ivey and Tyler Jordan have been really good,” Halter said. “Me and Martez have been playing left tackle. He’s been teaching me some stuff, so it’s a good give and take there. And then Tyler Jordan at center, he’s a real student of the game. I always see him studying the playbook. He knows his stuff. He played some guard a little bit today, so he’s definitely versatile.”

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