This week has been refreshing for McElwain. His first three months on the job consisted of recruiting, teaching on film and trying to coach through the mental side of the game. But it didn’t involve actually getting on the practice field and working with his new team.
Even on Monday and Wednesday, it felt like something was missing. The pads came on Friday, and the familiar sound was back.
“It was good to kind of hear some of the pads cracking a little bit, it was kind of fun,” Jim McElwain said.
The pads gave the Florida coaches a chance to take a first look at the running game and blitz pickup. The defense remains ahead of the offense as the first week of practices closes down, but that’s to be expected.
The focus will continue to be the tempo of practice. When the pads went on, it became an even bigger emphasis. Practice is designed to keep every player busy doing something at different points on the field. The Florida coach wants his players to embrace the “chaos” created in practice and learn from it, making game situations seem easier.
“That is what we’re getting to and I thought our guys did a really good job of fighting through a lot of it today,” McElwain said.
The Florida coach thought his team’s tempo was good on Friday, but it still has room to improve. The hope from the coaching staff is that the players will be better suited to handle what the practice regiment requires after they run through it more times on the field.
“We should be faster,” McElwain said. “Our guys gotta understand that that’s how we do it. Create the chaos, play when your mind seems tired, when your body seems tired and you’ve gotta understand, you can overcome if your mind will let you.”
NEW OFFENSE: The defense being ahead of the offense isn’t a surprise regardless of the circumstances, but it’s especially not with the team Florida has. The defense has been dominant in Gainesville under the previous coaching staff and brings a lot of key pieces back, especially in the secondary.
The offense has struggled. It’s the reason Will Muschamp’s coaching staff was fired and played a big role in why McElwain got the job. The Florida offense has to get better.
It’s too early to judge how it will look this season, but the new coach is happy with how the installation is going. He also made no secret about the offense having a very different look than the scheme Florida ran last season.
“Quite a bit (different),” McElwain said. “No doubt about it. And yet, there’s principles within there that are all the same, no matter what offense you’re running. We’ve had three days of install. There’s a heck of a lot more formations, motions, shifts, different personnel groups, so that’s a lot of the stuff that still needs to go in, but they’re adapting and communicating, and I feel pretty good about it actually.”
ROLIN HEALTHY: After missing the last two seasons, Florida linebacker Matt Rolin is healthy and has a chance to earn a role this spring. Rolin missed the 2013 season when he re-tore an ACL that was originally torn in high school. He was kept off the field last season to avoid re-injury and heads into his third season on campus healthy.
McElwain doesn’t know what Rolin looked like over the last two seasons, but he hasn’t seen any problems with him on the field this year.
“Matt’s doing well,” McElwain said. “Obviously because of the depth at linebacker, he’s not short on reps, as a lot of those guys. He’s getting plenty of opportunities to get himself on film and trigger and go make plays.”
MORRISON ON THE FIELD: Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison won’t practice with the team this spring as he continues to rehab a knee injury suffered in Florida’s Birmingham Bowl win. He was at the practice field with the team on Friday and has stayed around the group.
McElwain appreciates his leadership and is happy with the linebacker’s recovery.
“He’s there, being there all the time with us,” McElwain said. “I tell you what, he’s really working at everything he can in the rehab area, and it’s great to see him in meetings, in the locker room. Obviously on the buses and then to be out there at practice. I think that’s something that’s important for our team.”