When five-star offensive lineman Martez Ivey settled in at Florida, he put the team’s best interest ahead of his own and moved from tackle to guard. Entering his junior season, Ivey’s back to the position he knows the best.
Ivey made the most of his time as Gators left guard, starting at the position in 19 consecutive games since 2015. With the graduation of left tackle David Sharpe, Ivey shifts one spot to the left on the line.
Ivey explained his initial position switch back in 2015 was a product of trying to help the team. With a weak spot at guard and virtually no options, Ivey said he let the Florida coaching staff know he was ready and willing to fill the gap.
Doing so, however, proved easier said than done. Ivey played guard at times at Apopka High School, but re-learning the position while adjusting to the speed of college football would be a challenge.
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Not all positions on the offensive line are created equal, and Ivey had his share of growing pains in his move.
“It’s a humbling experience because I had to learn the speed of the game and learn defenses as well,” Ivey said. “I had to learn to engage fast and how to pass block from the guard standpoint instead of tackle. That was new to me. It took me a while to do it, but I gave it my all.”
The hassle of the move didn’t seem to slow the 6-foot-5, 305-pound Ivey down much. His sophomore season playing at guard saw the Gators win 9 games and the East division. For his efforts, Ivey was named to the Second Team All-SEC squad.
Sharpe’s departure meant Ivey would get the look and ultimately the nod at tackle. Though his shift from tackle to guard took time, Ivey anticipates the switch back will not.
“Going back from guard to tackle, it’s natural,” Ivey said. “I believe I move well out there. I’m fluid in what I do. I’ve got to be patient now. At guard, I got used to that contact happening within one second or even less. Now, I’m out here being patient.”
His head coach, Jim McElwain, shared the same confidence in Ivey’s ability to play the left tackle position and play it well.
“‘Tez is a natural left tackle,” McElwain said. “It speaks volumes to his unselfishness that he went in there and played at guard, knowing that we needed, you know, that to happen. In Tez's case, I think he'll really flourish now. He has that ability to move on the outside.”
Ivey said he and the other offensive linemen have gained even more confidence from new offensive line coach Brad Davis. Davis has challenged the position group to keep up the prestige of Florida Gators football and has brought energy Ivey said wasn’t exactly there in the past.
Ivey boasted of the team being stacked at quarterback, running back and wide receiver in 2017. Some think the quarterback position will ultimately decide Florida’s fate, but just as important will be Ivey protecting that player’s blind side.
“It really starts with us,” Ivey said.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports