While at The Opening last week I had two long conversations with five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey from Apopka, Fla. The first was on Tuesday and we talked all recruiting. For the record, Florida and Auburn are his co-leaders.
The second talk we had was on Thursday after the best on best finals between the offensive and defensive linemen. There, we talked for 10-15 minutes about nothing but football and where his game is today compared with where he believes it will be in the future.
This conversation told me a lot about Ivey and what makes him tick. I learned he’s humble and focused. I learned that he is driven and determined. I learned that he’s not satisfied with being a five-star recruit.
”I have a pretty simple approach,” Ivey said. “I had the mindset that I was the worst player here [at The Opening]. I have everything to gain and wanted to start learning the moment I set foot on this field. I took nothing for granted. I wanted to soak everything in and learn to be a better offensive tackle.
”This was a great camp and I watched everyone. I tried to pick things up by watching the other guys. This are the best guys so who better to learn from?”
In many cases kids that walk in Ivey’s shoes are not humble. They are not focused. They lose their drive and ambition. Sometimes recruiting puts kids on a pedestal. With this 6-foot-6, 271-pounds, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. He knows that there are certain areas of his game that need vast improvement.
”Right now, running blocking in my thing,” Ivey said. “I take it very personally. And I come from a school that takes great pride in running the football. Like I said, I really take a lot of pride and put so much effort in it. It’s where I know I can be a dominant player right now. It’s head on head and man on man.”
Ivey was devastating in run blocking one on ones. He just explodes off the ball. For such a tall player, he plays low. Ivey shows he can bend and he plays with that flat-back. At times he’s overpowering, especially when he gets a good punch on the defender.
Ivey was certainly less dominating in pass pro. He’s long and has great feet but he needs to play with more technique and better balance. At times he reaches with those long arms of his. Ivey may get away with that at home but not at The Opening. Defensive ends Byron Cowart (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) and Josh Sweat (Virginia Beach, Va./Oscar Smith) gave him trouble on the edge.
”There are a few things I need to work on with my pass pro,” Ivey said. “First, I need to play with more balance and technique. I am really working hard on ‘working the eyes’. Of course it all comes down to technique and my first initial set up. I know I have a long way to go.”
What’s scary about Ivey is that he’s only 271-pounds and by no means does he look that heavy. Ivey is one of the longest offensive tackles that I have ever seen in all my years in this business. He’s blessed with great feet and athleticism. Ivey can bend and move incredibly well for a kid his size. When he bulks up, puts on weight (40 to 50-pounds) and learns to play with technique, there’s no telling just how good this kid can become. The sky’s the limit.
For Ivey, he knows he has to continue to work and get bigger.
”That’s actually been kind of hard for me [putting on weight],” Ivey said. “But it’s coming. I hope to be at 285-pounds this season. I just know that I can’t wait. I know the weight and strength will really benefit my game. I have got to get bigger.”
What I love about Ivey more than anything is his understanding of where his place is at this time. He’s not caught up in the recruiting drama. Ivey was there to learn and compete. The Nike coaching staff raved about his behavior, willingness to learn and just how coachable this kid was. He’s leveled headed and understands that in the grand scheme of things five-star status doesn’t mean squat.
”I am not thinking about that when I have to go battle Byron [Cowart],” Ivey said. “When you are playing great competition like that you are just trying to play better and eliminate your mistakes. I don’t want to be embarrassed out here. Byron doesn’t want to be embarrassed out there.
”It’s funny because we have become friends and we talk a lot. We talk out here after each rep and tell each other things to help each other. Byron tells me how he wanted to play me and I do the same. We are both big film guys and when I see him beat me it gets me very upset. I just try and learn after each time.”
The two battled all week and Cowart got the better of Ivey for most of the reps. But when it was best on best with the final reps at the end of Thursday it was Ivey’s turn to shine. He took two of three from Cowart (video below) to cap off a nice week.
”I’ll take it,” Ivey said. “Byron is a great player who can beat you with his speed, power and hands. It was a nice way to end things. But I know I still have a long way to go.”