McElwain talks team, coaches and Driskel

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- After tailgating with fans outside Legion Field Saturday morning, Florida head coach Jim McElwain took some time with reporters in the stadium press box.

McElwain hasn’t been on the job for a month, but he got a glimpse at his future team throughout December. He spent time on the practice field, watching to see what type of team he would take over. He didn’t want to step on the toes of the assistant coaches, so he wasn’t involved in the coaching.

However, he did watch closely to start getting a feel for the players he’ll take over. The team will meet with McElwain on Monday morning to begin their offseason and get it started under a new regime.

“I like the way they compete,” Jim McElwain said. “They enjoy practice and I credit the coaches that are holding these guys together and accountable for what they need to do. It’s really one of those deals where it’ll be a huge change for them. And yet at the same time, the way that they have approached this is something that I have kind of really kind of impressed with. There's a core foundation of good character guys that are ready to go and get this thing done."

The future isn’t as clear for quarterback Jeff Driskel. McElwain confirmed on Saturday that he has asked for his release from his scholarship and is open to explore opportunities at other schools.

“I know he’s asked for his release, and that’s up for him,” McElwain said. “We all have choices and I’m not going to hold him hostage, certainly.”

The only two assistant coach hires Florida has confirmed are offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.

McElwain took some heat for the Nussmeier hire because of the issues his offense had this year at Michigan. However, the Florida head coach laughed off any criticisms on Saturday.

“I kind of laugh at them,” McElwain said of anyone who criticizes the hire. “Look at what he has done. He followed up what I did at Alabama and took it to the next level. He was in a tough situation and tried to resurrect it. And yet what I really like about him is he took the challenge. That’s one thing you guys will find out about Nuss, man, he’s one of the best, and I’m looking forward to get going on that.”

Collins has also been respected on the defensive side of the ball around the Southeastern Conference, and he checked all the boxes McElwain wanted on that side of the ball.

“I’ve known him for a long time,” McElwain said. “Obviously his experience in the SEC, he’s seen a lot of these offenses. He understands what it is. He’s a tremendous motivator, players love him. Their teams have always played really hard. That was really exciting.”

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