For a five-star prospect who started as a true freshman and has three years of productive play in the SEC, there’s usually a clear and obvious path to take — straight to the NFL.
Florida offensive tackle Martez Ivey took a hard, long look down that path, and has decided he’s not quite ready to take it.
He has other things he wants to accomplish at Florida before he gets on that road to professional football, including getting his degree, improving his craft and his draft status, and helping turn the program back in the right direction under a new coaching staff following a disappointing 4-7 season.
“I thought about it a lot,” Ivey said of his decision to return for his senior season. “The first thing I thought about was school. I wanted to graduate. I didn’t want to have to come back to school (to get a degree) after the NFL.
“I had a chance to go to the NFL, but I also had the chance to go back to school, get my degree and enhance my draft stock a little bit.
“On the football aspect, change was happening (with Dan Mullen and the new coaching staff). I knew everybody else was coming back, and we have a sour taste in our mouth after going 4-7. It just didn’t feel right. We have to finish what we started.”
Like all of UF’s draft eligible underclassmen, Ivey turned paperwork into the NFL to get an idea where he might go in the draft if he elected to come back.
He made his decision to return after getting information back from the NFL and discussing it with his family.
Ivey said he would rather not reveal what the NFL told him, but he does now have a plan on what to work on heading into, and during, his senior season.
“I want to always work on doing the small things right, developing my craft,” he said. “Working on a lot of technique stuff, just the small stuff.
“And actually learning the game. I’ve been here three years now. I’m able to sit down, draw up some pressures and be able to check plays in my head. Understanding play calling, essentially.”
Ivey’s decision to return certainly is good news for the offense and the offensive line in particular. Now that he’s back, the Gators’ top 10 offensive linemen from last season return.
After getting off to a disappointing start in the opening-day loss to Michigan, the offensive line regrouped and eventually did become a team strength, especially in the running game.
Expectations will be high for the offensive front in 2018.
“We can be as good as we allow each other to be,” Ivey said. “We’ve got to be locked in, got to know the playbook, got to know the calls, got to know our rules. Just stay focused.
“Physical wise, I believe we should be able to dominate up front. But you’ve got to learn the game first. I believe we’ve got so much experience now on the o-line that we’ll be able to take the next step. We’re going to keep getting better and better.”
The offensive line, like every other position group, is now under a new direction with the new staff. Ivey said he hasn’t had an opportunity yet to spend much time with Mullen, line coach and co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy or any other of the assistants because they’ve been busy recruiting and house hunting.
But the players have gotten a chance to know Nick Savage and the strength and conditioning staff. Savage has reiterated what Mullen told the players when he first took the job in November — the offseason conditioning program is going to be physically and mentally demanding, like nothing they’ve ever experienced before.
“We’ve talked to some of the strength guys and how they’re going to make everything competitive and make us work, and pretty much put us through hell,” Ivey said. “I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s something we need. It’s going to help us become a better football team. It’s going to make us stronger as a whole unit. You’re going to see guys struggling and still continuing to fight, continuing to work hard.
“It’s going to be a whole different atmosphere, because we’re going to have a whole new level of trust and belief in each other.”
Ivey said he anticipates there will be no problem with players buying into the new, more demanding approach because of what happened last season.
The Gators will be motivated by 4-7 and all that went with it — player suspensions, injuries and the coaching change.
“In football, not everything is easy. You have to face some adversity,” Ivey said. “You’re going to face adversity. It’s about how you handle it and come back from it.
“Last year doesn’t define us as a team. But what will is how we come back from it.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.