Summers prepares Gators linemen for NFL

The Florida Gators had four offensive linemen taken in the 2015 NFL draft, this from an offense that ranked 93rd in the country in total offense by the end of the season. Most that followed the team closely would tell you that the most improved unit on the team a year ago was the offensive line. What offensive line coach Mike Summers is capable of is why Jim McElwain kept him around.

Florida saw eight players drafted into the National Football league this past weekend. More than probably most expected given the outcome on the field over the last several years. Half of those drafted came from the offensive line, a group that through the years has been much maligned, but seemed to come together in 2014 despite the ineffectiveness of the offense as a whole.

Evidently there was some talent in the trenches, but that same talent along with another five or so that transferred from Florida or were drafted a year earlier never were able to play at a high level for any period of time under previous staffs.

Jim McElwain says that Mike Summers separates himself because he teaches his players like the pros do.

“What a great thing for those eight guys,” McElwain said of all the draftees Monday night before the Marion County Gator Club gathering. “To see that group work together like that, he did a great job with that. His NFL coaching experience helps in that. It’s part of putting them in a system it can help your players when they get to camp and it translates to film and what maybe some of the NFL guys are looking for. That’s exactly what we are trying to do.

“I think in this case, speaking the language and teaching some of the combinations helped those guys along the way too.”

Evaluation period and prepping for the season

This is the time of year when watching prospect film and on-the-road evaluations are coming at a rapid pace. It is also a time of the year for the staff to really get in gear when it comes to breaking down 2015 opponents and prepping for a master plan in the fall. McElwain talked about what is going on right now.

“Every day it’s about evaluating film and talking to recruits, that kind of stuff,” he said. “That is what this whole month is about as well as getting into our offseason break down of opponents. Starting to put the (playbooks) together with the coordinators and just trying to familiarize ourselves with the other teams.”

As he has done everywhere he goes, getting the most out of the talent on hand is all they can expect from themselves and the players on the squad. He likes the makeup of this team.

“We’ve got guys that are working their tails off,” McElwain said. “They have jumped in with a heck of a want to and are fun to be around. We will see how they adapt to our summer program. There might be some things that they aren’t used to from an accountability standpoint and we will see how the leaders jump out.

McElwain has his hands full on offense this year. With Summers back, veteran coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and veteran tight end coach Greg Nord, they have a nucleus of coaches that have been in a lot of places and done a lot of things. Add that to the youth and excitement of running back coach Tim Skipper and receiver coach Kerry Dixon and the group is well rounded but have a lot of work on their hands, especially going against SEC type defenses.

“It’s an opportunity and it’s exciting,” he said about the gauntlet that is the SEC. “I’ve had a little bit of history in this thing and a short stop at one place (Alabama) where we played some pretty good defenses. It’s a lot of fun and a great challenge.

“When you go through life, it’s all about challenges. This ought to be a lot of fun. I’m not saying we will turn it upside down. It’s part of our responsibilities to figure out what our players do best and accentuate those positives and try not to put them in a position of their negatives. That is part of coaching.”

Quarterback coaching…

With the draft this last weekend there were two quarterbacks taken, they went first and second overall. The next quarterback drafted was coached by McElwain and his staff at Colorado State and a testament of what can be done. Garrett Grayson is a great example for both the current roster and future quarterbacks the staff is recruiting.

“He overcame the coaching,” McElwain joked. “He did a heck of a job. Garrett truly invested in himself. He really learned over time what it is to prepare as a quarterback, how to attack the game plan each day as to what the installs are. How to watch film and prepare for the reps he was getting. I think the game was slowing down for him on Saturdays. Usually when the game slows down at that position your production goes up.”

When installing a new offense it is typical for the man in charge to use his old team’s game film to show what they are looking for with certain plays or formations. Grayson was all over the film room this past spring as the gators learned the nuances of a McElwain offense.

“In our installs we already have (shown film of Garrett),” McElwain said. “It gives them a little credibility to see when he is the third quarterback taken in the draft.

Roster moving forward

McElwain said there was nothing new in terms of transfer talk among the players. He also said that academically his guys pulled out a really strong spring.

“We did great in school,” he said. “I was a little disappointed with a couple of (GPA’s), but they will be ok. I think we finished the semester on a high note academically so we shouldn’t have any issues going into the fall. We can’t afford to get much thinner at some of those spots.”

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