The Gators have a chance to make a bigger statement on Saturday when No. 3 Ole Miss comes to Gainesville. McElwain has downplayed it this week, but the film the Florida players have been watching has helped them see what a big game this is. Ole Miss has revamped its roster since McElwain coached against them when he was the offensive coordinator at Alabama, and it’s easy to see the change in the team.
“Maybe a little bit extra film work (for players), a little bit extra ‘I’ve got to be on this’ because these guys are real,” McElwain said. “Their ranking is well deserved and well built by their staff and how they’ve gotten players. This is a heck of an Ole Miss team.”
The Gators were forced to handle success after week one. Florida pounded New Mexico State 61-13 in the season opener, but their preparation wasn’t as sharp the following week. It showed up against East Carolina, as the Gators squeaked out a win on their home field. McElwain is hoping the team learned from that week and prepares better this week after a surprising comeback win over Tennessee.
So far this week, the preparation has been where McElwain wants it. The energy level might be a little less than he expected, but the focus and work ethic is in line with the coaching staff’s expectation.
“I think they learned a little bit that that’s how they have to go about each practice, each situation in practice,” McElwain said. “You’ve got to understand what it means and the magnitude of that can show up on game day. I think they’re starting to understand why you need to act a certain way to help you focus when that situation arises, and I’ve been happy with their preparation. I think they’re starting to get that.”
MANAGING THE QUARTERBACKS
McElwain confirmed on Wednesday that Will Grier would start at quarterback against Ole Miss, but he didn’t rule out the chance that Treon Harris could also get reps. Harris had a “really good week” in practice, and McElwain said he could get on the field as a change of pace quarterback.
"We've got two guys,” McElwain said. “We've got one that played pretty good in some situations last week that deserves to go this week, but he knows that he's got a lot to learn and a long ways to go as far as understanding how to play the position. But with that, we've also got a lot of guys that need to pick up their level of play around him for us to be successful, so the quarterback, whatever, but we've got issues in some other areas that guys got to step up and start taking accountability for their actions during games and responsibility to play right and do right and help that guy, the quarterback, along."
MOVING AROUND UP FRONT
The Florida offensive line has been trying different lineups in practice this week. During the open portion of practice on Wednesday, Martez Ivey worked at left guard while Trip Thurman rested his shoulder. McElwain said multiple other lineups were used, helping the Florida offensive line be prepared for any situation that could come up during the season.
"It's strictly because of depth,” McElwain said. "As I tell them, I don't care how many starts you have, I don't care how young you are. We're playing in the SEC and we're playing conference games, so you've got to play like a veteran. That's the expectation. I think we'll continue to grow at that spot. I think we'll get better and better with every rep that we take.
“But there is no time for the future. It's about the now and they've held up OK. The guys they're playing this week, they're probably licking their chops and think they're going to set an NCAA record on sacks or something."