When Florida coach Jim McElwain spent the offseason hyping Florida’s offensive line, the reasons seemed obvious on first assessment. Besides boasting at least two future NFL talents, UF returned all five starters from the end of last season, and new position coach Brad Davis was deemed the right coach to get the best out of the available talent.
Yet one aspect often goes unmentioned when praising UF’s offensive line: the position may be one of Florida’s deepest, with reserve lineman Tyler Jordan deserving much of the credit.
A starter throughout much of 2016, Jordan’s role at left guard has been primarily filled by redshirt freshman Brett Heggie so far this season. While he would like to see the field for the Gators, Jordan has done anything the team has asked rather than griping about the decrease in playing time.
“I’m out here working hard every day,” Jordan said. “But at the end of the day, it’s what coach (McElwain) wants, what coach (Brad) Davis wants, and I’m still going to go, I’m still going to play.”
Considering the amount of injuries Florida endured in 2016, the Gators expect the entire depth chart to be prepared to play at any given moment. That’s no different for Jordan, who has worked at all five spots on UF’s offensive line in practice and brings advanced knowledge of each position to the practice field. As the Gators prepare for a trip to Lexington, Kentucky, Jordan has spent the week working with the first-team offense in practice. Even if he isn’t protecting quarterback Feleipe Franks’ blind spot on Saturday, Jordan knows every bit of work will only accelerate his improvement.
“That’s something I do pretty much every time we do fastball or any of the big team periods, they’ll throw me at left tackle just to get some work in there,” Jordan said. “I think it’s good because it builds some versatility into my game.”
After suffering a defeat at the hands of Michigan in the season opener, much of the blame for Florida’s offensive struggles was placed on the offensive line’s shoulders. Fair or not, Jordan believes the unit made significant strides against Tennessee, and he expects the Gators to continue improving up front as the season progresses.
“We communicated the looks a lot more fluidly I guess you could say,” Jordan said. “That was our biggest problem with Michigan. You look back at the film and nobody really got beat. It was just that we didn’t communicate the play right. We did a lot better job of that this weekend.”
Rather than harping on the negatives, Jordan and the offensive line have identified aspects each week that are focal points in practice. Although Jordan can point to areas of improvement, he’s not focusing on what has come and gone. Florida’s goal of returning to the SEC Championship Game remains in sight, but the route runs through Kentucky, which picked up a road win against South Carolina last weekend.
“It gives us a little confidence,” Jordan said, when asked about the momentum from the last-second win against Tennessee, “but at the end of the day you gotta rip off the rear-view mirror and you gotta start focusing on the next opponent, which is Kentucky. So we just got to take it day-by-day. And its really about us, it’s not about anybody else.”