Players don’t know the tempo expected from a new coaching, and both sides are still getting to know each other. But the one thing that can happen is a player communicating with his teammates.
On Monday afternoon, that’s exactly what McElwain saw.
“You can see how guys communicate,” the Florida coach said about what can be taken from a first practice. “That's first and foremost. I was excited to hear the guys actually communicating with each other, because if you're all on the same page, even if it's not maybe the exact thing that you wanted, but at least all 11 are working the say way. From a communication standpoint, that was really good to see."
The installation process on both sides of the ball is in the beginning stages. McElwain did acknowledge that the defense is further ahead right now simply because the defensive scheme will be similar to what the players knew last season. The defense is usually ahead early in practice, and that is no different this spring.
But the first day is never perfect for anyone. All McElwain asks is that the players show energy on the field, talk to each other and try to do the right thing. They did all of those things on Monday, specifically talking to each other and trying to make sure teammates knew what was going on.
“If I could say one thing that’s really important, it’s guys communicating with each other on every play so it’s not a secret,” Jim McElwain said. “I saw some of that today. Now, we’ve got to get a lot better, believe me. A lot better. But it’s a step in the right direction. If we can communicate, that means we know what we’re doing and then we’ve got a chance.”
Most importantly, the quarterbacks have to be able to communicate. The focus will be on that position this spring as Will Grier and Treon Harris battle for the starting job. Grier took the first snap during the open portion of practice on Monday, but when asked about it, McElwain downplaying any importance of the moment.
He acted like he didn’t know it happened and even turned to some of the players behind him to ask if Grier really took the first snap. Regardless, both quarterbacks will have chances to show what they can do this spring, but if they aren’t able to communicate with teammates and get the offense in the right looks, they’ll be a step behind.
“I saw (them) communicating the plays at the line of scrimmage,” McElwain said. “I think all the quarterbacks for the most part, that’s something you’ve got to do. You’ve got to be the field general out there a little bit, get everybody lined up. And with the six or seven different paces that we play, they’ve got to take control of that, too, so our offense understands what pace we’re in for that particular play. I was happy with all of them doing that.”
Last season was the first year on campus for Grier and Harris, and they learned in an offense under Kurt Roper that didn’t put them under center. McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier are changing that this spring, and they had their first shots to work with both quarterbacks under center on Monday.
McElwain said there will be “lots” of work spent with the quarterbacks before they feel comfortable with it.
“What a novel concept, isn’t it? Taking a snap from center,” McElwain quipped. “Unbelievable. Something new there. Maybe some time you’ve got to get in four-minute, bleed the clock a little bit and that helps be under center, maybe a quarterback sneak here and there.”