GAINESVILLE, , Fla. — Florida returns the majority of its offensive line in 2017, but there will be one new starter for the Gators.
With Martez Ivey moving this spring from left guard to left tackle to replace NFL draft prospect David Sharpe, an interior spot is up for grabs.
Brett Heggie intends to take it.
Florida recruited Heggie as a center, and he was the nation’s No. 6 prospect at the position in the 2016 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. However, he is now taking reps at left guard.
“It’s been going great,” Heggie said of the position change. “It took me one practice to get used to it. I’m doing a little bit of both right now, but that’s where I’m at.
“Your hand is in the dirt, so you have to be faster off the ball. You really don’t make as many calls, so you don’t have to think about it too much. You just play ball really at guard.”
Tyler Jordan solidified himself as the starting right guard, leaving Heggie to compete with Fred Johnson, a former tackle who started seven games at guard last season.
Johnson has two years of experience over Heggie, but the redshirt freshman is challenging him for the starting job.
“He’s working hard, doing a heck of a job,” offensive line coach Brad Davis said of Heggie. “He’s a consciousness kid. He wants to do well. He spends a lot of time outside of required team activities studying film and being in our offense.
“He’s kind of a gym rat, so to speak. He’s kind of working himself into a player that we’re going to rely on quite a bit this fall. Every day he’s got to go out and compete and earn it. So far he’s done a heck of a job for us.”
A big reason for Heggie’s emergence is the fact that he’s now healthy. He spent the better part of 2016 recovering from a wrist injury.
“I broke my scaphoid my first game of my senior year,” Heggie said. “I played nine games with it, and I didn’t know it was broken. So then I had surgery and I was in a cast for eight months. It took a long time to heal. It took probably about a year to heal completely.
“Bowl week I started to feel a lot better, I used it a little bit more. It’s still trying to get rid of bad habits and using my hand. It’s an everyday fight with me, but I’ve come a long way. So I’m happy with that.”
Heggie said he is more comfortable with Florida’s offense and the speed of the college game. Couple that with his health, and the former Under Armour All-American could push for playing time in 2017.
“This spring I think I’ve made some big strides,” Heggie said. “The mental part of it with the playbook, I think I’ve got it down over a year now. Then my wrist, the physical aspect has been a lot better.
“I’m just trying to get better every single day to contribute to this team as much as I can.”