The first five practices had Will Grier and Treon Harris battling it out for Florida, but a death in the family has kept Harris away from the team since Wednesday. While the sophomore was with the team, Florida had two young quarterbacks showing improvement. Even with Grier under center without Harris the past two days, the new Florida coach likes what he’s seeing from his quarterbacks in practice.
“I think they’re doing a heck of a job,” Jim McElwain said. “(They’ve) done a remarkable job of them kind of understanding what we’re trying to get accomplished. There’s obviously new learning that happens, and the biggest thing there is taking command and taking control in different situations, understanding the importance of what it is to take care of the football and distribute it and get it to some of the guys who can make some plays.
McElwain has pointed out all spring that the defense is well ahead of the offense, but that isn’t a surprise to anyone that has watched this team play in recent years. The defense has carried the Gators, and McElwain was brought in to mesh that with a better offensive product.
“It’s probably the reason we’re here,” McElwain said of the offense. “That’s all right man, I’m excited to be here and we’re going to get it taken care of.”
McElwain confirmed on Friday that Harris is not practicing with the team, and there’s no update on when he’ll be back with the team. That isn’t the focus right now, as the coaches and players continue to encourage him and make sure he knows they support him.
“Our hearts go out to him and his family,” McElwain said. “Guys, when you go through some things that some of these guys go through, none of us will ever know. Sometimes it’s time to sit back and reflect about the importance of family and what that truly means. We’re with him, we’re here. We’re his family here. He’ll fight through it and we expect him back when the time is right.”
OFFENSIVE LINE HOLDING UP: The numbers aren’t good for the Florida offensive line, but the Gators are still able to practice with some creativity. The seven scholarship offensive linemen have been mixed in with the walk-ons. Instead of practicing with a first and second team, the Gators are forced at times to substitute for individual players to get them a break.
Even with the issues, McElwain is still happy with the effort on the line early.
“I tell you what, they’re trying their tails off for the lack of numbers,” McElwain said. “You’ve got to play the hand you're dealt. And right now, quite honestly, the hand we were dealt is really insufficient at some of the areas.
“Just kind of the way we practice, we had to kind of totally change how we will normally practice here in the future. And yet, that's no excuse. It's what we have, and those guys are battling their tails off and learning and giving us an opportunity to execute some offense."
FEEDBACK FROM RECRUITS: Spring practice is important for the team’s development, but it also gives recruits a chance to get on campus, meet the new staff and watch the team practice. The Gators have hosted a lot of recruits on campus in the first two weeks of practice and will continue to do so through the spring game.
“Their opportunity to come see how we practice is awesome,” McElwain said. “And their opportunity to come see maybe where the numbers are on the different lines and see where maybe they might not have to stand in line as long. They might be in the 'Fast Pass' line, going right on the ride.
“I think that that's good, and anytime they've got an opportunity to see us coach, see our guys compete, to every one of them, they love the way we're going about our business and we've had some really good response."