Nussmeier and McElwain have crossed paths at multiple stops along their coaching journeys. At places like Fresno State, it was Nussmeier who replaced McElwain after he left for Alabama. They’ve had similar coaching trees and always maintained a close relationship.
“In knowing coach Mac for as long as I've known him the one thing about him is he's such a great person,” Doug Nussmeier said. “You not only have great time and have great people around, but you work extremely hard and get the things done we need to get done to be successful. I can't say enough about the chemistry on this staff.
“If you look at really good coaching staffs, you have the chemistry that goes on behind closed doors. Not to talk too much about other places, but sometimes you get in situations and things aren't as good as they can be on a coaching staff. It's important you have continuity and important you have guys who enjoy working together. That gets to the players and they feel that.”
Shannon credited the coaches buying into McElwain’s philosophy for creating an environment where the coaches enjoy being around each other. The coaches’ offices are elevated in the football facility, multiple floors above where the players usually spend their time. McElwain mentioned on Wednesday that he isn’t happy with that construction because it can sometimes create a barrier between coaches and players.
He challenged the players to spend time getting to know their position coaches and multiple other assistants on the staff. Being around the office as much as they are has also brought the staff closer together.
“Our coaching staff has really bought into Coach Mac’s vision for the program and what’s best for the University of Florida,” said Randy Shannon, who spoke to the media in place of defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. Collins was out of town to be with family after his father passed away on Monday. “When you look at this staff, you see guys like myself, Coach Rumph, Coach Callahan and all of us are from winning programs. When you come from winning programs, you develop an attitude and mentality to reach kids and reach the players on your team no matter what happens to be the best they can be and play at high expectations.
“Coach Mac is a scrapper. He’s got high visions of things he wants to accomplish and has done great things wherever he’s been across the country. It’s an opportunity to work with a guy I have a lot of respect for.”
COMPARING QUARTERBACKS: McElwain made it clear on Wednesday that the offense Florida will run fits the strengths of both Will Grier and Treon Harris as the two battle for the starting job. Nussmeier, who worked extensively with the two as the quarterbacks coach, sees different strength for the two quarterbacks but is confident in whoever performs the best this fall.
“I don't want to get into comparing them,” Nussmeier said. “I think if you look at their styles and the way they're different, obviously Treon's ability to expose the defense with his feet is different from Will. You look at Will, he's more of the prototypical dropback passer, with the ability to go through his progressions and find third and fourth receivers.”
DEFENSE WORKS TOGETHER: Replacing the pass rush Dante Fowler provided looks like the biggest question mark on an otherwise stout Florida defense. When asked about it whether or not Alex McCalister would be able to handle that load, Shannon wasted no time making it clear that one player doesn’t make up for that much production.
As Shannon and Collins see it, other units on the Florida defense playing well helps the pass rush.
“It all works together,” Shannon said. “Everybody always says ‘pass rush, pass rush, pass rush.’ The ball comes out so quick now because of the spread offenses, if we do a great job on the underneath coverages with the linebackers and secondary, that will buy time for the defensive line to get sacks. It all goes hand-in-hand. Our secondary has to do a great job.”
OFFENSIVE LINE AND PLAY CALLING: With few experienced pieces returning on the Florida offensive line, the coaching staff will have to be creative to find an offense that works. There are times when the play calling can be impacted by a struggling offensive line, but Nussmeier said that wouldn’t be the case this fall.
They’ll work to find the best five offensive linemen and then find the plays that fit them best.
“The plays themselves right now are not important today as we sit here,” Nussmeier said. “The biggest thing is finding the players. We'll find the plays that fit the players. The biggest thing is determine who those eight are, where they fit and go on from there.”
The uncertainty on the offensive line bleeds into multiple positions. One of the few that seems cemented into the starting lineup is tackle David Sharpe. After playing in six games as a true freshman last season, Sharpe has matured and looks like an important piece of this year’s offensive line.
“A big man ... a big man,” Nussmeier said, shaking his head. “David has done a really good job. He's a very, very athletic guy. He had a great basketball background. I really believe he is starting to really develop into a really good football player. Each and every day he does something a little better than he did the day before. I'm really excited about seeing him progress.
“He's done a really good job with his work ethic, his dedication in the weight room with coach Kent. We talk a lot about consistency and performance and dedication, that's what you look at with great players and great teams. That's what they have.”
UTILIZING POWELL: When asked about how they’ll find ways to include Brandon Powell in the offense, the biggest smile of the day took over Nussmeier’s face. It wasn’t hard to figure out how the Florida offensive coordinator feels about his slot receiver.
They can stick Powell in the slot and let his athleticism take over, and they can motion him into the backfield and allow him to create problems for an opposing defense. However Nussmeier dials it up, he has a unique player that can break off a long gain every time he touches the ball.
“A dynamic football player,” Nussmeier said. “He has the ability to be in the backfield and run it, and has the ability to go out in formation and run some routes. Any time you have that kind of player you can do a lot of different things and create matchup problems for a defense.”