Kan Li / Scout

Mike Summers is happy with the Gators' freshmen linemen

The Florida offensive line has no choice but to depend on true freshmen, and offensive line coach Mike Summers likes the way his trio is playing.

Martez Ivey was in line to start at left tackle before a knee scope forced him to miss the first two games. Fred Johnson has been a surprise to the coaching staff and proved he could handle snaps. Tyler Jordan brings versatility by playing guard and center, and he has done both for Florida this fall.

The trio of freshmen are an important part of the future of the Florida offensive line, but they're also standing out in the early part of their first season.

Ivey standing out

Martez Ivey made his college debut on Saturday at Kentucky after a knee scope kept him out for the first two games of the year. The former five-star recruit looked poised to start at left tackle in the season opener before the injury, and he showed that kind of talent in his first game back.

The coaches planned to ease him back into a game situation, but Ivey proved he was ready to handle more reps than they expected. His maturity on and off the field wasn’t much of a surprise, as Summers praised the coaching he received at Apopka High School.

"He was such a successful high school player on a successful high school program,” Summers said. “He got tremendous coaching in high school, especially in the run game. He had a real solid background in run blocking when he came in here and an understanding about football. He had been taught a lot of those things that you have to know to be able to be successful. I think he did have a little bit of an advantage based on that background. But his advantage is in his heart. It’s in his brain. He’s a football player, and so he brings that every day. It’s exciting to be around those guys, especially to be around him."

Most of the time spent with Ivey was focused on pass protection. He was advanced at run blocking for a freshman because of the offense Apopka runs, giving him a leg up on some of the other newcomers. The work in the pass protection wasn’t with anything major, and his natural athleticism allowed him to pick it up quickly.

“Really, I’ve seen tremendous improvement,” Summers said. “It’s such a shame that he got hurt when he did because he was on such a fast pace to capture a lot of the things that we had been teaching him going into that first game. I was so impressed with where he was. Then to have a three-week setback was difficult for him and for all of us. But he really responded well. He worked hard in his rehab. He came right back in, got into practice last week and really got a lot more snaps Saturday than I thought he’d be able to take and be effective at it. I was really pleased with what he did.”

Johnson a surprise

The Florida coaches weren’t sure what they’d get out of Fred Johnson when he showed up to campus. They loved his 6-6, 305-pound frame on the edge of the offensive line, but they thought it would take some time for him to get ready for the college game.

He didn’t need much. After being only a one-year starter in high school, Johnson has shown plenty of upside at tackle.

"He's such an amazing surprise,” Summers said. “His knowledge about football is way behind guys that have played and have more experience. But every day he comes over here he's got a smile on his face. It's a new day for him. He's excited to be there, and I'm excited to coach him. We work through the goods and the bads, and somewhere in between, we're seeing a guy really develop into a good offensive lineman."

Jordan earned a role

Tyler Jordan has split time between guard and center, but the coaches have watched the true freshman grow since coming to campus this summer. He’s willing to play any position on the offensive line and has learned the nuances that come with the center position, a spot he never played before coming to Gainesville.

“I’ve been so impressed with his focus and his willingness to play a couple different positions,” Summers said. “He plays center for us and has done a really good job there. He’s worked hard to make himself a really good center, and we’re getting him snaps at guard, as well. He’s become a really valuable player for us because of that. I see nothing but great things for him in the future, he’s got such a willingness for him to learn and has talent to play in there.” 

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