Florida head coach Jim McElwain said at the start of fall practice that Martez Ivey would take it light during practice during the month. Ivey says that he has been going strong.
"I’ve been full go since fall started,” he said. “At first, I was just feeling out what I can and can’t do. Pretty much I can do just about everything.
"When I first came out (for fall camp), it was a little tough. You can’t prepare for football conditioning. You can run in the offseason, but when you get the pads on, and the helmet, and all that extra weight with the knee braces, it was a little tougher at first, but now I’m getting it all back."
He says he is a little ahead of the game physically from where he was a year ago.
"I’m about the same weight that I was last year,” Ivey said. “I’m pushing around 310. I feel a lot stronger than I was last year. I’ve been in the weight program about a year. So that helps a lot.
Ivey says learning the plays wasn’t that hard, it was all the little intricacies of the game that he had to learn.
"It’s very tough. Like they say, most freshmen don’t just come in and play on the offensive line. It was overwhelming for me, and I just dealt with it. It was a lot at some times, but I just fought through it.
"I learned to respect the game and respect the players… to respect the speed of the game,” he said. “Also, you’ve got to have quite a bit of knowledge for it. You gotta watch film. You gotta do all the studying for it. Football at a much higher level than you’ve experienced.
“I’m farther ahead just because now I’ve got experience and knowledge for the game now.”
While Ivey moved around on the offensive line a great deal at Apopka High School, he was destined to play tackle in college. The quick feet and the long arms are prototype for what they are looking for. But, his ability to move the guy in front of him also makes him a big asset inside.
On the recruiting trail everyone was telling him tackle. He’s cool with where he’s at.
“I don’t really care where I end up at,” he said. “But just moving from tackle to guard was just, it was hard. Just playing tackle, you’re out there by yourself so you’re caught on an island. Then you’re moving to guard and you’ve also got to communicate with the center and you’ve got to listen for his calls. You’ve also got to communicate with the tackle as well. It’s just tough with communicating.
“I’m a lot more comfortable at guard right now just because I’ve got experience there. What’d I play the last eight games there? I don’t feel pressure, just get down in my stance and go play football.”
He does slide out to left tackle in practice from time to time and says he’s comfortable doing so, but he’s happy to do what the coaching staff wants and needs him to do. With that in mind, he isn’t worried about people on the outside and any expectations they may have for him.
“I don’t really listen to everybody else’s expectations. I just go out and play football. I do what my assignments tell me to do and just do what my football team needs me to do. I don’t have a single goal. We have team goals, so I’m not really all about myself. It’s all about what I do for the team.”
Ivey was the top offensive lineman in America coming out of high school according to many recruiting services. Don’t tell him that, he says none of that mattered to him then or now.
“I did not care for recruiting at all,” he said. “I didn’t listen to it. I did not buy into it. So I didn’t really have pressure coming in, but when people address me by it and just say, ‘You’re the top O-lineman,’ I was like I don’t really care. You can’t just really go out and greet somebody by stuff that happened on the football field. One, you could get beat by some kid, you don’t know. But you can also get beat by a kid who’s very well known. It’s just football. It’s all about technique and just knowing your assignments and knowing what you’ve got to do.”
At task for Ivey and the rest of the offensive line is to improve a unit that was far from good a year ago. There is a bit more experience this year than last which should help immensely. That starts with a better grip on the communication between the five guys in the trenches on offense.
“Yeah, because me, Tyler, Fred, Cam Dillard and Sharpe, I played next Sharpe last year and I also played next to Cam, and me and Fred and Tyler started the last four games of the season,” Ivey said when asked about improved communication. “So we already had that communication knowledge. It’s getting stronger and stronger. It’s sometimes getting to the point where we know what we got to do and we can just look at each other like, yeah you know what you got, you know what you got, it’s like, yeah. It’s gotten to that point almost.”
Physically, most of the linemen are there. The thought is the better communication will result in them helping the offense do what they are supposed to do.
“They go as we go, so basically we’re saying as an offensive line we’re only going to get production as long as long as we come out and we play hard every play,” Ivey said. “If we come out flat, the rest of the offense is going to come out flat. We feel like we got five guys on this field that dominates everybody else on the field. It all starts with us.”
The left side of the line consists of Ivey and junior David Sharpe. They are two of the three most experienced linemen and you can add Cam Dillard as the third who is at center and right next to them. That left side should be pretty good in Ivey’s eyes.
“I believe we can be dominant,” he said. “Me and Sharpe will be dominant. If we keep working on communication, just work on everything, our steps, just working on our double teams, we just keep working on that and everything else will fall into place.”
McElwain has been praising Sharpe for his leadership this fall. Ivey is on the same page.
“I look up to him as a player,” he said of Sharpe. “I see how he works. I see his understanding for the game and also his toughness. Some people might look past that, but I see it because I play right next to him. He’s just a great player.”
He and Sharpe are going to be called on to make sure that quarterback Luke Del Rio keeps his britches clean during a game. Del Rio isn’t as mobile of a quarterback as we have seen around here in a while, so they have to be on their game. Ivey knows that his pass protection technique has to be better than it has been and that is where offensive line coach Mike Summers told him to start his work during the off-season.
“He told me he wanted to improve my pass blocking,” Ivey said of Summers. “Everybody knows it’s a little bit of an issue for me. And also just my knowledge for the game, you know? There (are) always areas I can improve on and I feel like those areas, I could always be better in.
“I came from a run-heavy offense (at Apopka). I feel like I’m doing well at it now. I’m getting adjusted pretty well to it so I feel like I can always work on that?”
We’re just glad to have him back and doing his thing.