The first pass play has been perfectly thrown, bounced off a wide receiver’s hands and hit the group for an incompletion. Drops have plagued the Florida receivers in the spring and the fall, and even though they’re decreasing with each practice as the September 5 season opener against New Mexico State draws closer, it’s still a concern for first-year coach Jim McElwain.
“Every now and then they catch it,” McElwain said with a grin. “No, I think they’re doing (better). Consistency is something they’ve gotten better at. I think they’re both getting more confident at what they’re doing, which in turn helps the natural ball-catching ability as it goes.”
Rebuilding the confidence of the receiver position is an important part of the position producing. Another point of emphasis has been aggression when the ball is in the air. Too many times this fall, McElwain has seen balls thrown down the field that give the receiver a chance to make the play, but they are passive going after it.
“I’d still like to see them go up in the air and get things more aggressively when the ball is up there, demand that it’s theirs and not play second seed to anybody,” McElwain said. “Those are some of things we still have to work on.”
McElwain singled out Ahmad Fulwood weeks ago for playing passively when the ball is in the air. Instead of using his 6-4 frame to make catches over receivers down the field, Fulwood hasn’t played to his size. It’s an issue that has become contagious among the Florida receivers.
McElwain said to some extent that aggression is something a player is born with but it can still be coached into them.
“It’s what makes a guy like (Charles) Barkley, (Dennis) Rodman great rebounders,” McElwain said. “They maybe didn’t have stature or whatever, but when that thing was up there, it was theirs, it was a mentality. I think we have to develop that confidence and that mentality that when the ball is there I’m going to get it.”
FACING THE RAMS: Part of Jim McElwain’s buyout from Colorado State included the Rams taking a trip to Gainesville in the future. The Coloradoan reported on Thursday that it would take place on September 15, 2018.
McElwain remembered how beneficial taking Colorado State to play at Alabama was in 2013 and hopes the 2018 game offers the same opportunity for the program.
“When I look back to our experience when we were able to take the team to play in Tuscaloosa to play a couple of years ago, that really did a lot for our program. It did a lot for the people surrounding the program, as well, to go out and see something cross country a little different. So I’m excited about it. I know that they’ve got really good players.”
FIXING THE OL: With Martez Ivey out after needing a scope and expected to miss some time during the 2015 season, the Gators have to get creative. Ivey spent recent weeks serving as the first-team left tackle. During the open portion of practice on Thursday, David Sharpe worked at left tackle while Mason Halter moved to right tackle. Trip Thurman was the left guard and Antonio Riles was the right guard while Cam Dillard started at center.
Freshman Fred Johnson will also fit into the mix at the position, and fellow freshman Tyler Jordan could see reps at guard or center while the Gators wait for Ivey to return.
“I think we’re still sitting there with about eight or nine guys,” McElwain said, noting the return of Travaris Dorsey, “which was kind of our goal going in, to be able to move some of those parts.”