After the recent rule change that has allowed players to transfer and play immediately, the transfer portal has become a source of help for many teams across the country.
One of those teams, the Florida Gators, cashed in on the portal in a major way this offseason, specifically with the addition of offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence.
New Gators head coach Billy Napier previously coached the University of Louisiana in the Sun Belt conference. After three straight double-digit winning seasons and three straight league titles, he jumped to the SEC and brought Torrence, one of his favorite players, with him.
The 6-foot-5, 347-pounder currently leads all SEC guards in overall grade (89.0), run-blocking grade (91.7), and positively graded run-block percentage (23.6%).
Not bad for a player who wasn’t even sure if he could hang at this level.
|Stat||Rank in Power 5|
|Positively graded run-block %||23.6%||4th|
“When I went in the transfer portal, I thought I was just going to get in and get out,” Torrence said in an exclusive interview with PFF. “It couldn’t hurt just to go in and see if a bigger school would reach out. But when I got in the portal, [Napier] was the first one to reach out.
“It made me feel pretty good. I thought he wouldn’t need me because he went to the SEC — and there are a bunch of good offensive linemen there. I wouldn’t say I had low confidence, but I figured he wouldn’t need me there. But he trusted and knew that I could be just as good of a player in this league as I was in that one.”
Torrence started playing the game of football just because his oldest cousins were playing. He wanted to be like them. But he said he gave up football once he got to middle school and didn’t think he’d play again.
In the end, it was the brotherhood, love of competition and a high school head coach who told him he was too damn big not to be playing football that helped get the pads back on.
He played both sides of the ball in high school and actually had an offer from Georgia to play defensive line. But his heart was on offense; he liked being the guy who set up duo blocks rather than being the one taking them on. But the scholarship offers on offense didn’t come from the Power Five schools. Instead, he joined Napier at the University of Louisiana. It was there that he really took the next step toward being the dominant offensive lineman we see today.
As a true freshman, the Greensburg, La., native was just a backup in camp, but an injury to their starting left guard early in the season meant that he was going to be thrown into the fire whether he was ready or not.
“I was super nervous,” Torrence said. “I was nervous before every game. I didn’t realize how much they really needed me until I really got into film review and understood how important each spot on the offensive line was. I was taking it seriously for me, but when I became a starter, I realized how important it was to be a whole offensive line working together.”
Torrence started 13 games as a true freshman in 2019. In 2020, he started 11 games and earned second-team Sun Belt honors. In 2021, his third year, he started another 12 games and was named an all-conference player.
|Year||Overall grade||Run-blocking grade|
“I was following behind Kevin’s footsteps,” Torrence said. “When we would travel or when I had questions, I would always ask Kevin. He was that mentor to me. We both played guard, so I would try to take things from his game and put them into my game.”
Now in the SEC, Torrence is not just playing as well as he did at Louisiana — he’s playing even better. And as he has matched up against superior pass-rushers, it has only taught him more and allowed him to advance his game.
“I’ve realized in this league you can’t just punch and kick everybody [in pass sets],” Torrence said. “Players are better with their hand movement. In fall camp, I had that problem. During the early stages, I was getting beat in one-on-one drills because I was just punching, and these players are good at knocking my hands down instead of me catching and refitting my hands. Not everyone is going to want to bull rush me, so I can afford to take a shorter set and refit my hands. In the Sun Belt, it was just the same type of rushers, but here it’s speed guys with power. So I’ve had to adjust to the power.”
Torrence called the learning curve “interesting but fun,” and it’s certainly fun when the learning part of what you do still yields elite grades.
Week after week, Torrence is proving that he belongs in the SEC. And he will soon belong in the NFL.