Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Tyler Jordan actually didn’t realize he was going to play so early, although he was told that before he arrived. Recruited as a center of the future, the staff wanted to make sure he was going to be ready.
"I thought I was going to go in, my original plan was I thought I was going to play center,” he said about his true freshman year. So I was going to sit under Cam and learn under him, but I ended up getting thrown in, kind of getting a spot in the rotation."
He realized very early on that any inclination of taking it slow and easy was out the window.
"Within that first week of camp,” he said when he was asked about that realization. “They started throwing me in with the 1s, seeing what I could do, and as I kind of excelled and did what they wanted me to do, I thought, 'Hey, I could play this year'."
What ended up happening is that Jordan was quick to pick up on things and so they started double training him at guard and center. With Cameron Dillard in his first year starting at center and really nobody else behind him, it was imperative to have a second person ready. Dillard did go down in a couple of spots during the season and Jordan had to come off the bench in a pinch.
He performed in those situations much like the staff knew he would, at a high level.
By the end of the year Jordan made himself a mainstay in the rotation and actually started the last three games of the season at right guard. He is now entrenched at that position as we head into 2016, but guess what? He still has to make himself useful elsewhere, just in case.
“I’ve played — they keep me at guard obviously… right guard” he said when asked where all he has lined up this fall. “They bump me over to center every now and then. And we’ve been kind of low on depth so they threw me at left tackle the past couple of days.”
No problem for Jordan who has become used to it and makes sure he’s caught up on what each of the guys on the line are supposed to do on any give play.
“That’s the thing that we kind of go through in the meeting room that I kind of take notes on all the positions,” he said. “It ended up kind of helping me out.”
It is always a learning thing for Jordan who says that the little things about the position are what he is working on to fine tune his craft.
“Technique… that’s the thing that I want to work on the most in camp and practice,” he said. “Coming out, my footwork and hand placement needs to be better.”
Getting better has been the theme for the entire offense, but even more so the offensive line who happened to finish last in the SEC in giving up sacks a season ago. Admittedly, the offensive line wasn’t totally to blame for all of that. But that was just part of the issues up front for the Gators.
That sack thing is something that the group has not taken lightly.
“It’s a huge motivator,” he said. “Of course we gotta protect the guy in the pocket better. And that kinda sticks in the back of our minds.”
This is a different year. The Gators return starters in Cam Dillard, Martez Ivey, and David Sharpe. Jordan had three start and other experiences on the field last year. They are still young, but the expectations have gotten higher. Jordan believes the things they have gone through in a year will pay off.
“We’ve matured,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. We’ve kind of gelled together. Now of course, Antonio (Riles) being hurt, we’ve kind of had to bring more energy to the huddle. He was the big energy guy. But we’ve had a bunch of guys step up, including me. I’ve had to kind of become more energetic in a sense.
“We had to get stronger in the weight room. Of course, with us being thrown in the fire, I was a little kind of undersized. I was playing at 290, but now I’m within the 305 to 310 range. I’ve gained weight, gotten a lot stronger and faster.”
Riles loss was a pretty big blow to the line. He was a starter to begin the season and saw plenty of action last year and as a fourth year player, his maturity and experience will be missed whether he would start or not. With Riles out they have kind of been steady with a starting group of Sharpe, Ivey, Dillard, Jordan, and Fredrick Johnson. While Johnson is being tested by freshman Jawaan Taylor, the group has played a lot of snaps together in camp. That has helped.
"It helps (with) Coach Mac really emphasizing for us communication, specifically between like the tackles and the tight ends and the tackles and the guards, relaying the calls from the center down,” he said. “So that's a huge thing for us."
The breakdowns should come at a slower pace this year. That means they can work on being the aggressor more up front as they know their assignments better and can just play.
“We need to be a lot more physical,” he said. “And that’s what we’re looking to do.
“It’s a lot of pressure. But we’ve got to put that upon us, make holes for the back and protect the quarterback. If we do that, then we’re gonna succeed.”
It will still be another year of growth for this offensive line. They will be better, but even Jordan knows they have some room to grow even with the added experience and time in the system.
"Maturity,” he said as the biggest thing ahead for them in 2016. “We were very young last year. Me, Tez and Fred, just growing up a year, getting a year in the playbooks, a year in the weight room gives us a chance to be more physical."
Check out this fun moment with Jordan talking about most of his line mates.