The Florida Gators offensive line has taken a lot of criticism the past several years. Two years ago the unit let up more sacks than any other offensive line in the SEC (45) but they bounced back in 2016 allowing just (28), cutting the average down by more than a full sack a game.
Part of the jump in production was the consistency created by returning offensive linemen and in 2016 the Gators will return every starting offensive lineman except left tackle David Sharpe.
Tyler Jordan has played in 25-of-27 games since he arrived on campus, including four starts as a freshman and 11 as a sophomore. Jordan has worked almost exclusively at right guard but also served as Florida’s backup center in 2016. He is one of the most experienced players the Gators have on the offensive side of the ball but Jim McElwain challenged the rising junior before the start of spring camp.
“I think the big thing, Tyler Jordan really needs to take another step forward in both his conditioning and his overall understanding of the play,” McElwain said of Jordan before spring camp began. “He’s had two years of it now so we need some big improvement, big steps and improvements there.”
Florida has their offensive tackles set for this season with Martez Ivey and Jawaan Taylor at left and right tackle respectively. They also, through sheer luck, found a starting center last year when T.J. McCoy was vaulted from third string to starter due to injury. However, Florida is looking for answers at the two interior guard spots and there are three players vying to start.
Fred Johnson, who started at right tackle as a freshman and sophomore before moving inside after the emergence of Taylor, is hoping to be a starter alongside Jordan. Additionally, redshirt freshman Brett Heggie is looking to earn a starting job. There are only two spots for the three players and it looked like Jordan was starting to fall behind.
In the portions of practice open to media Heggie had started getting reps with the first team, while Jordan and Johnson split time. It appeared that Jordan may not have been showing the coaches what they wanted to see and what they challenged him to do before the spring.
Then Florida had a scrimmage of about 60 plays on Saturday and Jordan opened eyes.
“Tyler Jordan is… this was the first time I’ve seen him really engage and play throughout with a fire,” McElwain said Monday.
The Gators’ return a lot of talent on offense this year. They want and need the offense to take a leap in the third year under McElwain and Doug Nussmeier but that all begins up front with the offensive line. Tyler Jordan needs to be a part of that.
“His effort’s been good. I’m not downplaying the effort. The aggressive nature at which you need to come off and not take a step backwards but a step forward, you know, things like that,” said McElwain. “Not playing catch, but really being the aggressor I guess more than anything. He does a really good job assignment wise. But like we saw in the scrimmage, I thought he took some real steps moving forward.”