With his first season as the Florida head coach kicking off at 7 pm on Saturday in The Swamp, Jim McElwain still has a few questions he wants answered. He’s looking forward to the schedule ahead and anticipating a good day on Saturday.
“We’re obviously excited about getting out and getting a game under our belt,” McElwain said via the SEC teleconference call on Wednesday. “Our guys had a really good fall camp. We are excited about how they attacked what we are asking them to do. Yet, with the uncertainty of first games we will find out a lot about who we are and what we are made of. We’re excited about getting out there.
McElwain was a first time head coach at Colorado State for the last three seasons where he guided the rams to a better record every year and left them in solid shape for the future. He’s been around the game a lot as an offensive coordinator at different places, so he knows some things are always a part of the game no matter where you are when starting a season.
“It’s interesting, everywhere you are at has a certain set of things that need to be handled and taken care of and yet at the end of the day the fundamentals it takes from an organizational standpoint don’t change. That part doesn’t matter.
“It is obviously exciting for us to be able to open up at home in The Swamp The preparation part, it doesn’t matter where you are at, those first game snaps are very similar.”
He believes he can call upon his experiences as the offensive coordinator at Alabama and their four years of success to help him transition into his first year as a head coach in the SEC.
“I don’t know how much it helps or that you realize you’re getting into,” he started. “I think no doubt the experience that we were able to receive is something that is invaluable as you go into a new conference. I think it really helps.”
One of the biggest questions McElwain still supposedly has is who will be his quarterback this year. Right now the battle is not settled between sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier. He’s going to let the two work their way through the game a bit on Saturday and see how it goes from there.
“As we move forward we will put a first eight in for both guys,” he said of eight plays he wants them to accomplish. “We’ll give them those first set of plays that are going to be when they are in there. Obviously we don’t follow the script if we get something like a 3rd and short. Both of them will execute their own parts of that.
“I don’t necessarily like to do it each series one by one because it takes a while to get into the game. We will probably look at it as a series deal, get a grouping of series together and then go from there.”
While at Alabama AJ McCaron and Phillip Sims was a notable battle, but he has dealt with situation all throughout his career. Having been through it will certainly help him this go around.
“It goes all the way back,” he said. “We had this incident three times when I was at Eastern Washington, twice at Montana State. In a couple of those cases it actually went on for a couple of games. I think those things helped. It was very similar to what we did with Phillip and AJ in the first couple of ballgames that season. Yes, that helps.
“Every situation is different, yet going through what we did it is the same thing. You try and take the subjective part and make sure they are given the opportunities to see how the team moves and the people around them are affected in a positive way.
“Then you get back and watch the film, grade it, and make the decision from there. Yet, there isn’t any blue print or book that says this is how you have to do it. It does help having gone through it.”
In his own self-deprecating style of talk, McElwain relates the current quarterback situation to his own time as an athlete, but also believes the quarterback battle is nothing more than any battle at any position on the field.
“Maybe because I was one of those guys all the way through my playing days,” he said making a point that he had to work hard as a player to get it done. “It’s every position you go through when you are breaking a couple of new guys at each one. I think it’s how you do it. Everyone makes a huge deal about it, yet maybe sometimes the biggest battle on the team is who your left guard is going to be, but that doesn’t get as many hits on the Internet.
At the same time your criteria and how you do it has to be consistent with whatever position it is. We have confidence in both guys. I think part of that is resonating throughout your team. These are competition battles and competition is a good thing.