It is worth questioning whether the students or NFL scouts attending Saturday’s SEC showdown between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs were having more fun.
Students were thrilled because the hometown Bulldogs held on in a battle of 6-1 SEC East contenders, winning 36-17 in the only college football game of the weekend pitting two teams ranked among the AP’s Top Ten.
Scouts were just as entertained. That is because there was a dizzying amount of talent on the field, appropriate given that this rivalry is affectionately known by many long-time observers as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Among the standouts Saturday was Florida senior left tackle Martez Ivey, whose ideal physical traits have long intoxicated talent evaluators.
Ivey signed with Florida as one of the more highly touted prep prospects in the country but has teased more than dominated over his career, struggling with consistency despite possessing the long arms and light feet scouts are looking for at left tackle.
His inconsistent play, in fact, earned him a projection back to guard in NFLDraftScout.com’s updated 2019 rankings, where Ivey started 22 games prior to making the full-time transition to left tackle this season.
The strength and aggression needed for playing in the close quarters inside was certainly on display Saturday against the Bulldogs. The vast majority of the 170 rushing yards (on 37 carries) Florida gained came via the wide lanes Ivey created off the left side.
Ivey looks and plays bigger than his listed 6-5, 306 pounds, bullying Georgia’s undersized edge rushers with his girth and power. He shows good initial quickness off the snap to gain an early advantage and possesses a vice-like grip to latch on and control.
And while Ivey certainly has contributed to Florida’s inconsistent passing prowess in the past, don’t blame him for Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks registering just 105 passing yards Saturday, on 13/21 passing. Matched up against Georgia’s legitimate future NFL edge rushers Jonathan Ledbetter (6-4, 280 # 13,), D’Andre Walker (6-3, 245, # 15) and Keyon Richardson (6-3, 235, # 11) Ivey fared well, maintaining the arc with a smooth kick-slide and his wingspan against Georgia’s speed, while showing good balance and anticipation to handle counters back to the inside and bull rushes.
Ivey locked down the edge on this touchdown pass from Franks, far and away his best throw of the game.
It was the kind of performance that likely will get lost in the shuffle, given the relatively anonymous nature of playing offensive line, as well as the fact that the Gators lost.
The steady performance certainly won’t soon be forgotten by scouts, however, especially given that Ivey was named a captain for this game by the Florida coaching staff and this year’s class of tackles is once again viewed as average at best.
As two-time NFL general manager Scot McCloughan has told me on numerous occasions in the Instinctive Scouting Podcast, the remarkable depth of this year’s defensive line class could paradoxically leave teams waiting on run-stuffers and edge rushers and instead focusing on shallower positions – like offensive linemen – earlier than most expect.
If Ivey can continue his growth over the second half of the 2018 season, do not be surprised if he earns top 50 – or even first round – consideration.