Jim McElwain, speaking on the SEC coaches’ weekly teleconference, said he and the team are highly anticipating the matchup on Saturday in The Swamp with East Carolina and head coach Ruffin McNeill.
“(We’re) really looking forward to getting out to practice today as we continue to establish our routine and work schedule as our guys get an idea of what need s to happen,” McElwain started on the call. “Going in this game against Ruffin and his team that are really fun to watch on film, they give you a ton of things that cause you concern.
“Probably the thing that stands out the most is they are a team that plays the way he wants them to. They are physical fast, they have fun, they enjoy what they are doing, disciplined… this is a game that will be fun for us against a team that has played in a bunch of environments and been very successful over the course of time.”
Despite losing offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley from last year’s powerhouse offense, McElwain likes what he sees out of this year’s Pirates squad.
“It’s very similar,” he said. “When you break down all 13 (games) from a year ago and match it to what they did against Towson, there is obviously some carry over in that. I think the experience showed in some cases. They appeared to not miss much of a beat.
“It’s interesting the thought on guys like this is all about throwing it. What these guys have done is found balance. Their balance was really, really good from run / pass and pass / run.”
The Gators will hit the field Saturday with a bit more firepower on the field, especially on defense. Safety Marcus Maye and RUSH end Alex McCalister were suspended for the opener and McElwain said both are back this week and we expect receiver Latroy Pittman to also be back from the one game suspension.
“They are back and ready to roll,” McElwain said of the two defenders. “We are excited to have them back. But, there were some guys that played a lot of reps that helped our team get a lot better. We are developing a lot of competition at a lot of spots and we are hoping to continue to keep guys fresh on both sides of the ball
The injury front seems a little better. The only two players that missed Saturday are continuing to heal and the prognosis seems pretty good for junior starting safety Keanu Neal. Freshman offensive tackle Martez Ivey seems a little less optimistic.
“We just met on that today,” McElwain said. “I feel a little more optimistic with Keanu and we’ll get more at the end of the day. Tez is coming along and we want to make sure it’s right. We’ll know more later.”
Remarkably, with Ivey possibly out, he may be the only eligible player on the roster that won’t play on Saturday. It’s a great position to be in at this stage of the game.