GAINESVILLE, Fla. — New Florida offensive line coach John Hevesy comes across as a very straightforward, matter-of-fact guy.
As he shared, when he picked up the recruitment of Gators 4-star OL commit Richard Gouraige, Hevesy asked the prospect what he knew about him and then encouraged him to ask him any questions he felt he needed to ask.
Meanwhile, when it came to talking with incumbent left tackle Martez Ivey about his decision to return for his senior season or declare for the NFL draft, he laid it out plainly for Ivey as well.
“I talked to him a bunch. I talked to him about four or five times about the whole thing. Not knowing much — I mean, I recruited Martez four years ago — but I sat and watched all of his film, watched every game he played in this past year and then I sat and talked to NFL guys. [Then I told him], ‘Here is what it is, straight line, here’s what my thoughts are just from doing this long enough and what people say and what people do.’ I said ‘That’s all I can go off of. Ultimately, you’ve got to listen to the right people,'” Hevesy recalled Thursday.
Ultimately, Ivey made the decision to return to the Gators even though that meant learning a new offense and playing for a third different offensive line coach in the span of three years.
Ivey’s decision was, of course, a major boost for Florida, as it now returns a three-year starter and anchor on an offensive line that will once again hope for a breakout in 2018.
Ivey, who played primarily left guard his first two seasons before moving over to tackle last fall, has made 31 starts over three seasons. He was a two-time SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week in 2016 and earned second-team All-SEC honors each of the last two seasons.
Listed at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, Ivey faced the same decision his former linemate David Sharpe did after his junior season, when he ultimately opted to enter the draft. So it was far from a sure thing that Ivey would be back with the Gators in 2018, especially having to make that decision in the midst of a coaching transition.
“He talked to coach [Dan] Mullen, he talked to me. Whoever he talked to outside of that, the decision’s got to be made by you,” Hevesy said. “It’s no different when it comes down to recruiting for kids. Make sure you’re talking to the right people, the right information is being given to you. Not from someone that thinks they know, your elementary football coach who has two uncles past that played in the NFL 35 years ago [saying] ‘Here’s what you should do.’
“The agenda’s about your success to go now compared to go a year from now. Not the instant ‘I’m going to get money,’ because if it’s not there immediately you made the wrong decision. So to me, just give him all the plus and minuses for him to leave. And I think he made the right decision. I think for him it’s a year to build his body up. He’s been plagued with injuries in his career here. He’s missed a lot of offseason training, the winters and the summers because of those injuries. To me, he needs to embed himself in that and the training room and the weight room for a year to get himself healthy to now when he gets an opportunity to go, he makes the best of it.”
Now that he’s answered the question about his immediate future, another remains about where Ivey will line up for Florida in 2018.
After starting left guard Brett Heggie went down with a season-ending knee injury late in the season at Missouri, Ivey eventually moved inside to that guard spot for the final two games.
Heggie is expected to miss the spring, but Hevesy said he anticipates he’ll be ready for fall camp. If he’s not able to handle a full workload at the start of the season, though, the Gators will have to determine where Ivey is most valuable to them.
“The one thing watching him, he can play both,” Hevesy said. “The biggest thing to me right now when you ask depth chart and position-wise, I’ve told them all to just go compete. All I can really see now is competitive level. How do they compete and that’s in the offseason training [we’re] going to find out their competitive level, their competitive nature, their athletic ability. That’s the first thing I’m looking for now.”
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