GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain has said on multiple occasions that he feels the offensive line will be one of the Gators’ strengths in 2017.
That’s a long way from where the group was three years ago when McElwain took over a program with seven scholarship linemen.
The group, which returns five players who saw significant time on the field and has the potential to be 10 deep, will have the chance to prove how far it has come as fall practice approaches.
Here’s a closer look at the Florida offensive line.
Left tackle Martez Ivey
After spending his first two years playing left guard, Ivey will step into the coveted left tackle spot in 2017. Ivey, a junior, is arguably the Gators’ best offensive lineman who has lived up to his 5-star billing. He was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2016 and also earned two SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors and is on the watch list for the 2017 Outland Trophy, which honors the nation’s best offensive or defensive lineman.
Left guard Brett Heggie
Heggie, a redshirt freshman, turned heads during spring practice and is Florida’s leading candidate to start at left guard heading into fall camp. After taking a redshirt his first year on campus while recovering from a wrist injury he suffered in high school, Heggie has become one of Florida’s more consistent interior linemen despite his lack of experience at the collegiate level. The 6-foot-3, 317-pound Heggie is a natural center but has embraced the move to guard.
Center T.J. McCoy
McCoy is set to anchor an offensive line after bursting onto the scene late in 2016. McCoy saw his first significant action against South Carolina after starting left tackle David Sharpe and starting center Tyler Jordan went down with injuries on back-to-back plays. McCoy held his ground when called upon and went on to start the final four games of the season. Now, the redshirt sophomore and son of former Florida defensive tackle Tony McCoy heads into 2017 as the Gators’ starting center and on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the best center in college football.
Right guard Fred Johnson
Johnson played in 20 games (10 starts) during his first two seasons, primarily on the right side of the line. After opening his college career at right tackle, the 6-6, 311-pound lineman shifted inside to guard in 2016 following the emergence of Jawaan Taylor. Johnson’s experience and versatility allowed him to mainly rep with the first team in the spring. He will likely continue to do the same once fall camp begins in August.
Right tackle Jawaan Taylor
Taylor started 12 games at right tackle in his first season with the Gators and earned Freshman All-America honors from ESPN.com, the Football Writers Association of America and Pro Football Focus. Now, he’s ready to take his game to the next level in 2017. Taylor, 6-5, 340, bulldozes past opposing defenders and was stout in the running game. Quarterback Luke Del Rio gave him the nickname “The Great Wall of Waany.” It should be more of the same from Taylor heading into 2017.
Interior lineman Tyler Jordan
Jordan, a junior, has played in 25 career games with 10 combined starts at guard, center and tackle throughout his first two seasons at Florida. However, he left spring camp behind Heggie, McCoy and Johnson for the three interior spots on the offensive line. At 6-4, 309, Jordan is versatile enough to play all five spots along the offensive line but is likely going to be Florida’s top reserve interior lineman in 2017. He could crack the starting lineup again with a strong outing in fall camp, but he should receive significant playing time either way.
The rest of the group
Florida has seven offensive linemen looking to work their way into the rotation, including:
- Redshirt juniors Antonio Riles and Kavaris Harkless
- Redshirt sophomore Nick Buchanan
- Redshirt freshmen Stone Forsythe and Tanner Rowell
- True freshmen Kadeem Telfort and TJ Moore
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