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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Offensive line, defensive tackle Taven Bryan impressing early in Spring practice

<p>UF defensive tackle Taven Bryan looks toward the crowd before Florida's 32-0 win against North Texas on Sept. 17, 2016, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.</p>

UF defensive tackle Taven Bryan looks toward the crowd before Florida's 32-0 win against North Texas on Sept. 17, 2016, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

As Jim McElwain took to the lectern Monday morning for his weekly press conference and began to field questions about his football team, he looked on incredulously at the group of reporters sitting in front of him.

“Can we talk hoops?” he asked. “Do we gotta talk football here? Can we talk some hoops?”

Yes, the mania that is March Madness has not only spread all over UF’s campus, it’s trickled onto the gridiron, as well.

McElwain said he was extremely impressed with the performance the men’s basketball team put forth this weekend, earning a trip to the Sweet 16 for the first time in three years following victories over East Tennessee State and Virginia.

The third-year coach also expressed confidence in guard KeVaughn Allen after McElwain was asked if the sophomore could break out of his current 3-for-21 shooting slump in the tournament.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” McElwain said.

Men’s basketball isn’t the only thing Florida’s coach is feeling optimistic about, however.

Offensive line looking solid under new position coach

As the third week of Spring practice kicks off, McElwain said he’s “really excited” with the progress he’s seen on the offensive line.

T.J. McCoy, Tyler Jordan and Brett Heggie have all been taking snaps at center to create some depth on the interior.

Martez Ivey has moved to tackle and is getting his first serious taste of Spring football after missing last Spring while recovering from shoulder surgery.

The line has also been rejuvenated by its new position coach, Brad Davis.

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Davis was hired to replace former coach Mike Summers in February after stints at North Texas, East Carolina, James Madison and Portland State.

The man who started at offensive line for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in the early 2000s has only been a part of Florida’s program for a month and a half, but he’s already managed to gain respect from his players.

“The way they go about the drills, they’re not just walking to the line of scrimmage,” McElwain said. "They’re playing with a renewed sense as far as how they go about it. (Coach Davis) demands it from them.”

Taven Bryan is a ‘monster’

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Florida will have to deal with the departure of Caleb Brantley, Bryan Cox and Joey Ivie in 2017.

While the defensive line will look for new faces to emerge as reliable contributors, one player who is already stepping up this Spring is Taven Bryan.

The Casper, Wyoming, native totaled 17 tackles, three tackles-for-loss and one sack in 13 games last season, but he “lacked consistency,” according to McElwain.

Since practice began last month, however, the narrative has changed.

“He has been our most consistent player, day-to-day in all drills,” McElwain said of Bryan. “He has probably taken as big a step as anybody on the team as far as consistency and performance.”

One player who has seen Bryan’s improvements up close is T.J. McCoy. The two go head-to-head at the line of scrimmage every practice, and the offensive lineman said his teammate has made great strides over the past year.

“Taven is a monster, man,” McCoy said. “That dude gets off the ball quick. He’s a very high energy guy… The mental part has really taken off for him as well.”

Contact Dylan Dixon at ddixon@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon.

UF defensive tackle Taven Bryan looks toward the crowd before Florida's 32-0 win against North Texas on Sept. 17, 2016, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

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