USA TODAY Sports

Gators' offensive line is changing the perception

If there has been a most maligned group on the Florida football roster over the last few years it has to be the offensive line. A start over of sorts a couple of years ago saw the insertion of freshmen on the field along the offensive line. Those freshmen are now juniors and an offensive line that has been youthful and inexperienced for two years now can’t say that any more.

For Florida head coach Jim McElwain one of the things he harped on with the group a season ago is that they weren’t showing a sense of urgency on the field. McElwain has praised the group all season, but Saturday night, following the Orange and Blue Debut, McElwain expressed his displeasure with a couple of nameless linemen that weren’t putting out the effort he wanted to see.

“I thought they did okay,” McElwain said when asked about the play of the line “Disappointed with a couple guys that didn’t compete. We got kind of after them at half time a little bit about competing. Sure enough, they came out in that second half and did a much better job.”

Gators’ starting left tackle Martez Ivey has been a staple on the line for almost two full years now. The junior says this hasn’t been a problem for most of the spring.

“I would definitely not call it an issue,” he said of McElwain’s displeasure. “As a unit, as an OLine group, I believe and you can see it on film that we come off the ball, we’re physical, we give competition to our defense and we’re competing every day. He just wants us to compete, that’s all. We want to run the ball. We want them yards. So, he’s challenging us, he wants us to do better.”

Ivey says the group has come along this spring with a new attitude. He has an answer for why the group has the new attitude.

“Confidence,” he said. “Definitely confidence because you know we’ve got this new swagger to us. (We’re) gonna come out and (we’re) gonna dominate. That’s what they’re telling us we need to do and that’s what we’re going to do. That’s how we feel. We want to change the way people think about us. We don’t want anybody thinking we hold Florida back at the OLine group.

“…we all just go out there, we want to dominate, we want to be physical and we’re trying to set a standard. So we’re going to keep to a higher standard and we want the best.”  

It has become a group effort and that means they are all-in and pushing each other.

“Just constant, just telling each other, you know, being positive,” Ivey said. “You have to be positive and tell them ‘run off the ball, run off the ball’. And we practice hard and so when it comes to game time, it’s going to be easy. It should be easy because we practice real hard.”

And Ivey will tell you when this new attitude really kicked in.

“As soon as we got Coach Davis in,” he said.

As for Friday night, Ivey says that he saw a big jump in one area that was extremely difficult to manufacture a year ago.

“Communication,” he said. “We always speak about ‘communicating, communicating’ and out there in the spring game we communicated. We made the Mike points and got our combination calls. I was just really pleased with that. There was no confusion out there at all.”

And no confusion that these guys are playing better and that the perception is about to change with the offensive line. 


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