Notebook: McElwain likes marquee openers

HOOVER, Ala. -- The Gators have eased into the season with an opener against lesser teams in recent history. Jim McElwain sounds interested in changing that.

Florida opens this fall with a game against New Mexico State, who went 2-10 last season. That hasn’t been a rarity for the Gators. Last year’s opener was against Idaho before it was cancelled because of weather, and Bowling Green and Toledo served as the season openers in the two years before that.

Things will change in 2017 when the Gators head to AT&T Stadium in Dallas to face Michigan. It’s the kind of game McElwain likes the idea of in the future.

“I really like those opening games, like we're going to get an opportunity in a while to play Michigan down in Texas, and I'm looking forward to that,” McElwain said. “I think that's good for college football. I really do. For us, maybe playing some of those opening games like that, I just think it helps your team prepare in the off-season knowing that right off the bat, here we go. And I think it's a good thing.”

INJURY REPORT: McElwain said there is no update on when linebacker Antonio Morrison (knee) will return. He suffered a serious knee injury in the Birmingham Bowl, but Florida hasn’t announced what the injury is and has been quiet about his status for this fall.

“We don’t have (a timetable for Morrison) necessarily,” McElwain said. “He’ll be limited to no contact when we go. He’s come a long ways in a short period of time. As I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, I never put a player on the field that’s not ready. So time will tell there, I know how hard he’s worked. He’s been one of those guys that’s elevated a lot of the people in their workouts by how hard he is in there working every day to get back.”

Offensive lineman Trip Thurman (shoulder) sat out the spring to rest his injury, but McElwain said he’s “ready to roll” when fall camp opens.

Defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick has been away from the team and continues to deal with personal issues.

“Right now he’s dealing with some things that he needs taken care of,” McElwain said. “We’ll see how that goes. Personal things in guys’ lives. We’re going to help him deal with those.”

QB BATTLE CONTINUES: McElwain said there’s no update on the quarterback battle and he’s not close to naming a starter. Will Grier and Treon Harris split reps during the spring, but Harris missed about a week of practice because of a death in the family. McElwain admitted that Grier being on the practice field more gave him a slight leg up in the race during the spring but said that wouldn’t mean much by the time fall practice opens on August 6.

The most important part of the competition will be which quarterback makes the people around him better.

“When we get out there in August, I think that will really tell which one of those guys has elevated not only their play but more so how the people respond to them when they’re moving the team on the field, in drills and that kind of stuff,” McElwain said. “As a quarterback that is huge. You can have a ton of talent and this and that but if the guys around you aren’t willing to have your back, well then it ain’t going to work real good.”

GRADY IMPACT: Florida added post-graduate transfer Josh Grady to the team this summer, giving them another body with experience playing quarterback. The former Vanderbilt player will play for the Gators during his final season of eligibility, but he also gives the coaches some versatility to use in practice.

Grady played quarterback and receiver at Vanderbilt, but it sounds like he’ll mostly be used as a depth piece at quarterback this fall.

“He’s been doing some quarterback stuff,” McElwain said. “We don’t have a lot of bodies there. He’s a guy that’s played the position. He’s doing that … a guy that’s been in there doing that sort of thing, so right now he’s running at quarterback.”


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