Football notebook: UF linemen make time to bond over summer

Florida offensive lineman Jawaan Taylor (65) talks with media members at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClennyStaff photographer]

It has been a summer of bonding for the Florida offensive linemen. And, being big men with big appetites, what better way to do it than at the dinner table.
The linemen, all 14 of them, made weekly excursions to some local restaurants over the summer and plan to continue the tradition in the fall, on Thursday nights. They also went on several fishing expeditions around the area.
“Yeah, we did a lot of outings this year,” sophomore center T.J. McCoy said Friday.
McCoy said the chemistry that has been developed among the linemen off the field will carry over onto the field this fall.
“I feel like it’s just trusting each other. You know, your brother’s got your back,” McCoy said. “It’s not all about football. We go on these outings and talk to each other about regular stuff. I talk to Jawaan (Taylor) about his parents, his family, where he comes from. It’s all about getting to know each other and then saying, ‘You know what, this guy cares about me, my life, my school, my personal life, whatever I am going through personally, not on the field.
“I feel like when you don’t do team-bonding activities you kind of don’t know what everybody else’s agenda is. I feel like once you have these activities you know each person is, you know T.J. is this type of person and Tyler is this kind of person. You get to know this person on an intellectual level and not just football, but a personal level. And that makes the bond tighter.”
McCoy did not name the biggest eaters this summer. But he did reveal who caught the biggest fish.
“We went catfish fishing, went to a couple of ponds in Gainesville. That was pretty fun to do,” he said. “I think it was between Jawaan Taylor and Tyler Jordan. I’m a big fisherman, I caught a couple, but I didn’t catch nothing near as big as they did. Then we went back and just fried them up that night, so we got to have fun and fish and eat.”

Blocking for Zaire
Notre Dame graduate transfer quarterback Malik Zaire has made a favorable early impression on the players assigned to protect him this season — the offensive linemen.
“Great impression,” center T.J. McCoy said. “I feel like he did a couple of great things in the run game. We had a read-option and he took it to the house. He looked good. He made a couple of completions. So, it’s going to be a great competition among the quarterbacks.”
Left tackle Martez Ivey said the dual-threat Zaire is an effective addition to the offense.
“He seemed pretty calm, and he understands the offense,” Ivey said. “And he’s out there just trying to get better, competing for a spot. He’s out there doing his job and also having fun with it at the same time.
“(His ability to run) takes some pressure off us. We can do a lot more stuff than just throw the ball. We can read also now. We can have a little option game in there. It makes us more dynamic on the ground.”
Zaire and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks are considered the front-runners in the QB race, but McCoy said don’t count out last year’s starter, Luke Del Rio.
“I see him factoring in quite well,” McCoy said. “I feel you can’t ever count him out because he knows this offense in and out. I feel it’s going to be great competition between all the quarterbacks. Kyle Trask, even (Kadarius) Toney.
“Everybody is going to compete for this job. My thing is whoever is the best QB, Coach Mac is going to find out who that is and that’s going to be the leader of our team and be the starter and help carry this team to the championship.”

Sharp on the edge
Ivey, of course, is happy to be back at his more familiar left tackle spot after starting at guard last season. But with that comes this: he has to go against two potentially elite pass rushers in Cece Jefferson and Jabari Zuniga every day in practice.
“Cece and Jabari are just like iron sharpening iron,” Ivey said. “You go out there and you’ve got to give it your all. You’ve got to play like it’s a game with them out there. Because they’re going to go 100 percent, and I’ve got to go 100 percent with them. I believe they’re going to have a big year. They’re both talented. They’re going to give quarterbacks a lot of heat this year.”