Redshirt Report: High football IQ will serve Kearney well

Class of 2023 Redshirt Report

by Joseph Torviso

Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

Inside the Gators will be taking a look at Florida’s true freshmen players who redshirted in 2023, getting an idea of what their experiences were like by speaking with those closest to them. Up today is redshirt freshman offensive lineman Roderick Kearney.

Coming out of Orange Park (Fla.) High School Kearney was ranked a four-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals, On,3 and 247Sports. ESPN had him as the 6th best interior lineman, 24th best player in the state of Florida, 49th best player in the region, and the 96th best player in his class.

Heading into his true freshman season at Florida, he was the third center on the depth chart, behind redshirt junior Kingsley Eguakun, who recently declared for the draft, and redshirt sophomore Jake Slaughter.

“I know he’s a young fella, so he’s got a lot to prove, but he’s going about it the right way,” said Logan Tuley-Tillman, an offensive line trainer. “He’s light years ahead of his time when it comes to his mental process and the way he sees the game. He’s locked in.”

Tillman started training offensive linemen in 2017. It ended up turning into a business that he calls LT2FBA, named after himself. He was an offensive lineman who had the opportunity to be a part of a rookie minicamp with the San Francisco 49ers. Tillman couldn’t play center at that level and saw the need for personal training for the players who want to take that opportunity.

“That’s where the niche of it came in,” he said. “Just trying to be the help that I needed to be a player to retain a position. To provide the help that I wish I had coming out.”

Tillman was following Kearney on social media before the lineman joined his program. Just over four months ago, the redshirt freshman took part in his first training session.

“He’s a lot bigger, a lot leaner than I expected from seeing him on tape,” Tillman said. “One of the best-built guys I’ve had in the program. He’s hungry.”

Tillman spoke about how eager Kearney is to improve. Last week, the lineman stayed after his session to get some extra recovery in. He even picked up cones and other equipment used during training.

“As a person, he is awesome,” Tillman said. “There was another young fella who had a different session, but [Kearney] decided to stick around and offer some words of encouragement. He wants to be good. He wants to be coached.”

For spring, Kearney is preparing to be an interior lineman for the Florida Gators. Although he is listed as a center, the redshirt freshman has worked on some drills as a guard with Tillman.

When it comes to what he needs to work on, coach Tillman believes Kearney needs to get used to the week-to-week nuances of the game. Once he gets this down, the redshirt freshman will be able to “boogie” and compete now.

“When we were doing our work, there was pretty much nothing that would stump him,” Tillman said. “He sounds like a spitting image of his coaches.”

Coach has been impressed with Kearney’s approach. He said that it normally takes athletes quite some time to truly understand what they need to work on. The redshirt freshman is putting in the work now, and showing why he was a top recruit.

Tillman has had NFL caliber lineman come through his program. He said that Kearney reminds him of Xavier Newman, center for the New York Jets.

“He reminds me of a bigger, longer version of him,” he said. “Very savvy, high football IQ.”

When he was being recruited, he received offers from Miami, Florida State, Georgia, and more. With NIL and the transfer portal becoming a more and more prominent factor when athletes decide where they want to play, it didn’t affect Kearney coming into Spring. He decided to put in the work and prove that he is the man.

“He’s comfortable where he’s at,” Tillman said. “His family loves UF from my understanding. He just wants to be coached. I have a lot of respect for coach [Rob] Sale as well. He’s done it at a high level, and he thinks highly of the big fella as well so I’m sure that plays a part.”

Not only is Kearney dedicated to his craft, but he is also putting work in the classroom. Last fall, he was on the 2023 SEC Fall Academic Roll.

“He’s on a student advisory council at UF,” Tillman said. “And he’s just a boss in my opinion. I tell the guys we must have something outside of sport to be identifying with, and he’s just crushing it off the field. He has a freaking sponsorship with IHOP.”

Coach Tillman has nothing but high praise for Kearney. He will be a player to look out for this Spring. Let’s see if he can make an instant impact for Florida this Fall.

“The sky is the limit for him,” Tillman finished with. “He’s the type of great person you would love when good stuff happens to, because he’s earned it, and he deserves it.”

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