ATLANTA — A year ago at this time, Florida offensive tackle Martez Ivey was in the same position a handful of UF juniors find themselves in right now, facing a decision on whether to leave early for the NFL or return for their senior season.
Ivey decided to come back. And he has zero regrets.
He’s had a big senior season, has a chance to leave UF with a possible 10-win season and has likely improved his draft status along the way.
“(I’m) more (draft ready) than last year, that’s for sure,” Ivey said after Wednesday’s Peach Bowl practice. “I was just making that decision based on the uncertainty of the future of the program and coming back also how the team was going to be and how the team was going to respond to the new staff. I’m glad I made the choice to come back. I wish I had another year to play for them.”
Ivey said two of the biggest benefits of coming back for his senior season were the chance to improve his technique under offensive line coach John Hevesy and improve his strength under strength and conditioning director Nick Savage.
“The first benefit was just with Coach Savage, just coming back and getting stronger and getting faster,” Ivey said. “And also coming back with Coach Hevesy and getting one more year to learn football and also technique. We work technique every day, also learning the game. That helps tremendously.
“If you know what you’re doing, you play a lot faster. There can be somebody better than you across the line, but if you know what you’re doing you can get there faster, you can get there first, you know how to handle it. Being in college in four years doesn’t hurt you at all, four or five years. It actually helps you to learn the game.”
Playing in a bowl game is a reward for a successful season. But Ivey isn’t in Atlanta to have fun. He’s here for one last business trip with the Gators.
“I’m not a big one to get worked up playing in certain places,” he said. “I have a couple of friends who played here and they’re like, it’s the best thing ever, blah, blah, blah.
“It doesn’t matter where I play at, it doesn’t matter who I play. I have a job to do and that’s what I’m going to do. It’s a great experience also being out here, thank them for inviting us out here. I can’t complain, I’m enjoying every minute of it. But at the end of the day we have to play Saturday, so it doesn’t matter where or who it is.”
Wilson looking good
UF fans would have liked this photo opp after Wednesday’s practice: cornerbacks CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson both in uniform, standing side-by-side on the field.
Henderson and Wilson were the starting corners coming into the season. But Wilson sustained a torn ACL in the second game of the year against Kentucky and missed the rest of the season.
The good news is Wilson appears close to being all the way back. He did some full-speed running before Wednesday’s practice.
“It feels great,” Wilson said of his surgically repaired knee. “I wish I could play in this game.”
Wilson will receive a medical redshirt and is going to be a sophomore next season. He’s expected to return to practice in some capacity in the spring.
The Florida players who have already graduated will be wearing an SEC Graduate patch on their jersey in Saturday’s game.
There are 12 of them: junior center Nick Buchanan, senior defensive tackle Khairi Clark, senior long-snapper Ryan Farr, senior offensive lineman Kavaris Harkless, senior athlete Brandon Reddick, junior defensive tackle Adam Shuler, senior offensive tackle Martez Ivey, senior athlete Glenn Jarriel, senior tight end C’yontai Lewis, senior kicker Jorge Powell, senior tight end R.J. Raymond and senior tight end Moral Stephens.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is a little more than a year old, is a massive and potentially awe-inspiring place. But junior linebacker Vosean Joseph says he likes the stadium the Gators opened in last season more. That would be AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the Wolverines and Gators faced off last September.
“I like Jerry World better,” Joseph said.
Michigan right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty has become the Wolverines’ fourth draft-eligible player to pull out of Saturday’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against No. 10 Florida.
Michigan spokesman Dave Ablauf confirmed to The Associated Press that Bushell-Beatty, a fifth-year senior, elected to miss the game.
The No. 8 Wolverines also will be without senior running back Karan Higdon, junior defensive end Rashan Gary and junior linebacker Devin Bush. Quarterback Shea Patterson has announced he is returning for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft.
Bushell-Beatty missed Michigan’s final regular-season game, a loss to Ohio State, with an undisclosed injury. He started the first 11 games of the season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.