As he has seen in the past, the teams that have success on the field in the fall are the ones that spend a lot of time together on the practice fields during the summer.
The coaches aren’t allowed to be much in the offseason. The emphasis falls on the shoulders of the team’s leaders to get players together and hit the practice field together. Heading into the first year with a new head coach and new coordinators on both sides of the ball, it’s even more important for the players to get on the practice field and make sure they have the new schemes memorized as well as possible before fall practice begins.
“The summer, when the coaches aren’t around, is really where you find out a lot about your team,” Jim McElwain said. “It’s where those guys find a commitment to be great without somebody there every second. As they say, character is something that’s built and it’s really about what you do when no one’s watching.
“I’ve just found those teams that really jump in with both feet during that summer time those on the field activities that they do on their own, that’s really where you find out what kind of team you got.”
The key is to build leaders on this Florida team. Strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Kent plays an instrumental role around the team during the summer. He doesn’t have the same time limits with the players that the assistants and head coach do. It’s his responsibility to build camaraderie within the team and put them through difficult situations in the weight room.
Through those, the leadership builds.
“What I’ll be looking for is really the leadership that emerges within this group both offensively and defensively to go out and execute what they’re asked to do this offseason, obviously with our strength guys,” McElwain said. “There’s still some body-changing we need to do on guys, too.”
With 15 practices under their belt with the new staff, the players also need to spend extended time in the film room this summer. The tape for each practice is always available for them to watch, and the NCAA recently implemented a new rule allowing coaches to spend two hours per week with the team while watching film.
The coaches can also use that period to get a head start on more installation that will take place in the fall. They can go over what’s to come with the players when the fall gets closer, helping them see on tape what they need to learn on the practice field this fall.