Central Florida has not exactly been a breeding ground recently for Football Bowl Subdivision offensive linemen.
Sure, there have been a few. Ty Darlington is the most recent success story, considering what he accomplished as a freshman this past season at Oklahoma. The former Apopka center started one game and has a bright future with the Sooners.
Players like Darlington, Navy's Tanner Fleming (Deltona), Florida's Jonotthan Harrison (South Lake), Duke's David Harding (Boone) and Middle Tennessee's Darius Johnson (Dr. Phillips) have certainly done well as starters at the next level, but it's rare that Central Florida produces big-time heavies.
Guys like former NFL players Max Starks (Lake Highland Prep) and Jeff Faine (Seminole) just don't come along very often. That, however, could be changing.
There was plenty of Central Florida representation at the Nike Football Training Camp at West Orange High in Winter Garden this past Saturday (March 16). Area offensive linemen put Orlando on the map with their performances against some of the top linemen in the state and it was Apopka's Martez Ivey leading the way.
Ivey, who will be a junior for the Blue Darters this upcoming season, has quietly piled up early offers from schools like Florida State, Ohio State, South Carolina, Nebraska and Oklahoma. He was so good Saturday that he may have even impressed himself with the skills he exhibited.
Offseason one-on-one challenges at recruiting combines and camps consist of players going at it, hand-to-hand combat style, dressed in shorts and T-shirts. The offensive linemen try to keep defensive foes from getting at a tackling dummy, which represents the quarterback. So, it isn't exactly an accurate simulation of game-time trench warfare, but it shows plenty in the use of technique, footwork and arm strength. It's a tool to evaluate players in a pass-block scenario.
Ivey is somewhat of a novice when it comes to that sort of blocking. Although the state champion Darters did air the ball out a bit this past season, it's still a run-first mentality in the Apopka camp and so pass blocking isn't exactly Ivey's strength. Or so we thought.
He had his massive wingspan working to his advantage Saturday. Ivey, who measures 6-foot-5, 280 pounds during the season, has a wingspan that coach Rick Darlington describes in a prehistoric analogy as “arms like a pterodactyl.”
“I thought I did pretty good,” Ivey said. “[Long arms] are an advantage for me. Coach kept telling me, ‘Just get your first punch in and nobody can get past you.'”
Not many did. The scary thing about Ivey is that he still has an undeveloped frame and he will be a giant once he visits a college training table and gets in a college weight room. The possibilities are endless.
Ivey wasn't the only local O-lineman who had a good camp. Other Orlando-area players like Gage Bostwick of Lake Brantley and Josh Peters of Orlando First Academy had their moments.
Bostwick, a somewhat undersized offensive guard at 6-1, 278, did a nice job of standing his ground and moving his feet. Bostwick has good technique for a guy who also doesn't see a lot of pass-blocking opportunities at Lake Brantley.
Peters (6-3, 190), whose mobility is perhaps a bit limited by a past knee injury, plays center at TFA. He does a nice job coming off the snap and getting in position.
Winter Park lineman Angelo Owens, who struggled a bit in his first outing of the spring at the National Underclassmen Combine's Five-Star Showcase in Kissimmee two weeks ago, showed far more confidence Saturday. He won more battles than he lost and he did a great job in forcing defenders outside.
Also representing Central Florida at the Nike camp were Hagerty’s Breht Joly, South Lake’s T.J. McCoy, Dr. Phillips’ Colby Meeks, a sophomore, and Deltona’s Josh Calabro. They struggled at times, but overall Central Florida’s representation was certainly far better than in recent years.
It’s easy to see that the heavies are pulling their weight. Several other area linemen who were not on hand Saturday are expected to see some college recruitment.
DeLand’s Ben Knox is already committed to Florida, and an ankle injury kept him out of the Nike camp. there are also others like King Belin at Orlando University, Deion James at Evans, Alban Harp at West Orange, Lyman teammates Brock Merritt and Paul Collins, Chris Miller of TFA, Sam Janetzke at Apopka, who had a nice showing at the NUC 5-Star, Harrison Derner at Lake Mary, Daquane Wilkie at Oak Ridge, Rian Hagan at Colonial, Ryan Walsh at Winter Springs and East River sophomore Zach Elkins, just to name a few.
Things are looking up for area big guys and let's just hope the college scouts take some notice when spring football rolls around in a few weeks.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.
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