McElwain brings excitement to speaking tour

The speaking tour started last week for Florida coach Jim McElwain, and he’s facing an interesting challenge through the rest of the offseason.

The offensive line hampered the Florida offense during Saturday’s spring game, and the bad news kept coming on Tuesday when the Gators announced that offensive lineman Roderick Johnson’s football career was forced to an early end after being diagnosed with congenital cervical stenosis.

Florida will head into spring practice with 13 scholarship offensive linemen and Trip Thurman, who is battling a shoulder issue, as the only player with starting experience. Along with the other issues on the offense that need to be fixed by this new staff, the Gators could be limited on that side of the ball again this fall.

McElwain won’t focus on that when he speaks to Gator clubs across the state this spring. Minutes before taking the stage with the Titletown Gator Club on Tuesday, McElwain said he wants to push the positive aspects of the program.

“There’s a lot of great things here,” Jim McElwain said. “There’s a lot of things that we can point at. I’m really excited about what we’re about to go into. I mean, you can’t hide the reality and you can’t run from it, and yet that’s just part of building something and making sure we get a solid foundation first and implement these guys in as they come. I’m really excited about what we’re heading down the pike for.”

There won’t be any pre-written speeches or any memorization involved when McElwain talks to Gator clubs this spring. He didn’t have any for his introductory press conference when he accepted the Florida job, and he likely won’t have any for press conferences or speaking engagements in the future.

As McElwain noted, that’s just not who he is. He said he’ll try to get a feel for the room and listen to the introductions, but ultimately, his goal is “not to put them to sleep.” McElwain will speak from his heart with Florida fans, simply because he doesn’t know of another way to do it.

“This is actually exciting,” McElwain said. “We get an opportunity to get out and see the people that are really passionate about Gator football and the University of Florida and give us an opportunity to shake hands, and really be grateful for our opportunity to be at such a great place. So we’re looking forward to it. We’ve got quite a few of these set up here over the next month and a half. It’s good. It allows us to get out and actually get out in a grass-roots movement of what it’s all about. We look forward to it and hope they put up with my talking I guess."

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