Position Breakdown: Florida’s offensive linemen eager to dump underachieving label

Florida senior offensive lineman Martez Ivey, a preseason All-SEC performer, is a team leader who expects a big final season in Gainesville. [The Associated Press]

This is the third in a series previewing the 2018 Florida football team.

A preview of the Florida offensive line entering head coach Dan Mullen’s first season:

The upside

This will be the most experienced offensive line the Gators have put on the field in quite a few years. The No. 1 line — Martez Ivey, Brett Heggie, T.J. McCoy, Fred Johnson and Jawaan Taylor — has combined to start 95 games.

The leaders are the seniors — Ivey, Johnson and Tyler Jordan. They have been starting games since their true freshman season in 2015 and all have shown a lot of versatility.

Ivey has started at tackle and guard. Johnson has started at tackle and guard. Jordan has started games and seen playing time at center, guard and tackle.

Ivey is a former five-star recruit who has yet to fully realize his potential. Injuries have been a factor, along with him being moved from his natural position (left tackle) at times over the past two seasons.

Ivey has gained strength in Nick Savage’s offseason strength and conditioning program and is coming off a strong spring in which he was dominant at times. He seems determined to end his career with a big senior season.

Another leader on the line is McCoy at center. He may be undersized, but he’s a battler whose relentlessness seems to be contagious.

This is a line that started building some much-needed chemistry over the course of last season and appears to be a tight, cohesive group.

The downside

Over the past two seasons, the line has underachieved.

It was supposed to be a team strength going into last season, but it only took one game (a physical loss to Michigan) to reveal that the line was not going to be as good as most anticipated.

Once again, the line seems to have the experience to be very good, but until the big guys do it consistently on the field, the line remains somewhat of a question mark heading into the season.

Depth is better, thanks to the addition of Texas transfer Jean DeLance, junior college transfer Noah Banks and three true freshmen, but the Gators have little playing experience behind the starters at virtually every position (except for the one Jordan occupies).

Young player to watch

Sophomore offensive tackle Stone Forsythe certainly has the look of a big-time offensive tackle with his great size (6-foot-7, 329 pounds). Now it’s time to start playing like one. He started the final two games last season and flashed some of his potential. He had a good spring and is looking to take another big step in his development this fall. If he does, he could provide a much-needed boost to the depth at tackle.

Don’t be surprised if …

The three true freshmen — tackle Richard Gouraige, guard Chris Bleich and center/guard Griffin McDowell — work their way into the playing rotation.

Overall depth on the line is better, but the backups at tackle and center have little experience, so the opportunity will be there.

Gouraige, a four-star prospect, played both ways in high school, and also played basketball. He is athletic for a guy his size (6-foot-4, 298 pounds).

McDowell is a tough, hard-nosed player who will compete for the backup role behind McCoy at center.

Bleich was an early enrollee who showed in the spring he can physically hold his own at this level. He’s gotten reps at guard and center, and provides depth at both positions.


“Tyler’s a senior, Fred’s a senior, Jawaan, it’s his junior year, everybody else has experience. But for me and Fred and Tyler it is our last chance. Our last chance to get it right. Last chance to do what we came here to do. We didn’t come here to go 4-7. We came here to compete for championships and win a championship. That’s my mindset, that’s their mindset, it should be everybody’s mindset around here. We’ve got expectations. It’s not just win the SEC East, it’s to win the whole SEC. Then it’s to go to a playoff game, then it’s to go for that national championship. We’re the University of Florida, that’s the expectation. That’s what the fans expect, that’s what we should expect, too.” — OT Martez Ivey

Probable depth chart


73-Martez Ivey

56-Jean DeLance

72-Stone Forsythe

76-Richard Gouraige


61-Brett Heggie

64-Tyler Jordan

53-Kavaris Harkless

67-Chris Bleich


59-T.J. McCoy

66-Nick Buchanan

62-Griffin McDowell

71-Nick Vilano


74-Fred Johnson

75-T.J. Moore

70-Tanner Rowell


65-Jawaan Taylor

72-Stone Forsythe

55-Noah Banks

Ranking the SEC offensive lines



Mississippi State


Ole Miss





South Carolina

Texas A&M





  1. Everything that’s needed to be said, and some things that don’t, have all been said. In 40 days, more will be said, adding some new things and some things that don’t need to be said, but will be said anyway. And so it goes. But if it goes the way we expect it to, then the comeback really starts and we’ll be happy Gators, for sure. All I can say is that this Gator has confidence in Dan Mullen.

  2. Robbie, you failed to even mention in your article that Heggie is likely moving to center and Jordan projects to be the starting left guard in his senior year. That has been common knowledge since spring practice ended. McCoy was even being challenged by Buchanon in the spring at center.

  3. TampaGator, you are right. Something doesn’t add up. There is confusion here that needs clarification from the media. (How about it Robbie?) Some report that McCoy is on the Rimington Watch List, yet there are conflicting reports about McCoy. I remember Gene Chizek (in post game analysis) stating that McCoy was a big part of the problem in the Kentucky game last year. The center (as you know) is supposed to determine blocking assignments, and McCoy wasn’t reading the defense correctly (and everyone knows Franks could not help). It was not until Luke came in and was able to read the defense that he was able to correct the blocking scheme. Hence, Luke often had more time to throw in that game. We have all heard the rumors about the center position being up for grabs. Is that idle talk or? And how is McCoy suddenly on a Watch List if he is not even the starter?

    • This is the likely OL depth chart when the season starts:
      LT – Ivey, DeLance, Couriage
      LG – Jordan, Harkless, Bleich
      OC – Heggie, McCoy, Buchanan, Vilano
      RG – Johnson, Moore, McDowell, Rowell
      RT – Taylor, Forsythe, Banks

    • DrG8r. Everyone and their brother is on a preseason watchlist. But surprised McCoy is on it. Buchanan got more of the spring reps at center because McCoy was still recovering from his 2017 injury; but Jordan took advantage of Heggie also being out during the spring to impress the new coaches at LG and why Heggie, who is bigger and stronger than McCoy, is now projected to move over and start over McCoy at center. I thought Heggie should have started over McCoy last year at center. But McElwain was making those decisions then. Thank goodness, NO MORE.

  4. When Muschamp was hired, I said it was a bad hire, BUT, I liked his recruiting and still supported him his first two years. Then I saw us get creamed by UL in the Sugar Bowl after the 2012 season, that major struggle to win against Toledo to open up the 2013 season, the embarrassing loss to Miami after that, and I was done with Muschamp.

    I was more excited about McElwain when he was hired, but quickly became un-enamored with his coaching staff picks, especially Doug Nussmeier, who I said then was a total disaster of a pick that would eventually determine Mac’s job here at UF. Grier’s pure talent was the only saving grace of the first half of that season.

    But when you look at a coach, you have to look at HIS RESUME’. I feel none of the negative waves bout Mullen that I felt about Champ or Mac. As for the OL, you watch how our physical conditioning and Hevesy is going to drastically improve their performance. The OL will produce this year, and I for one believe we will have a very, VERY good run-game this season. One of the better ones we’ve seen in a long, long time.

    I’m really psyched about this season. I don’t expect titles this year, but I do believe this team could win 9, perhaps 10 games if we play our cards right.

    • Talking to the Lord the other day and told him straight out if we didn’t win eight games this year, I wasn’t going to church for five years. That’s what I said, and he said, “I’ll see you Sunday, Leland.” Just like that, he said, “I’ll see you Sunday, Leland.” Then he said something else I couldn’t tell quite what it was.

    • Todd that’s why I’ve said QB doesn’t have to be great just make sound decisions and complete the designed pass plays. If the qbs improve a the season move along. We could be better than good. One of the reasons my concern is for the early season tough games. I think once we are at speed we’ll be in these match ups. Injuries or lack of (hope that is us) in all teams will change where they finish. Now if our QBs play better than expected we could be solid 10 win.

    • Todd,
      Im with you on this one. Good play snowballs. The running game should be good with even average oline. Running game will open up passing attack. I see our wr’s similar to our rb’s, there are multiple players who could break out with better coach/calls, conditioning, qb/ol, and both squads have the potential to be not just good but great. TE will spread defense even more, making running attack even better, and so on. Yes, at this point it is 100% just conjecture, but I dont see why we can’t we can’t win 10. We might have to steal a couple with special teams and to’s, but why not?

    • Tampa,
      Post away. Once you get past the overly negative tone of your comments, you usually have something intelligent to say. I’m not sure why you try to come across as a troll(I admit I used to think you were 1), but whatever, if that’s your thing, what do I care. But in a weird way, your glass half empty view helps maintain balance on the site and often sparks conversation. So like I said, post away.

      • willgator. I try to post facts and work my comments off of those facts and let others decide if the posts I make are negative, positive, or whatever. But in reality, each post is just one long-time Gator’s perspective.

        • And anyone who’s a “long time Gator”, has a long history of frustration ( I can personally attest to that). I’m not sure how sane any of us would be at this point if Steve Spurrier hadn’t come along and finally given us teams we could be excited about and proud of…… so Tampa, you just keep bringing the facts and we’ll overlook your bedside manner 🙂

          • I agree 100%, just wish we would have done the same for Gator g and Tim. There’s room under this big tent for all sorts of opinions.

  5. Tell me that these guys care about being in the heat watching film and working out and playing the game more than all of this other stuff and I won’t be smitten with having wasted my time like I did in things like watching the muschamp Louisville game, Georgia southern, losing to Michigan, losing to a team coached by Ed orgeron, losing to Georgia, Missouri, and South Carolina..
    I sincerely believe if our players learn to love the day to day again we will be fine.
    Credit card fraud and 25 arrests and no leaders and not being in shape tell me that the love isn’t there that you need to win.