Draft-eligible players always have many people in their ears about their decisions. Jim McElwain said on Tuesday that every school has only five players they can send to the NFL to get reports from the league on their decisions. Since Florida has more than five players that need feedback, the coaching staff is doing as much as possible to gain the necessary information for the decision.
Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III said after the SEC Championship Game that he would likely leave early, and McElwain confirmed on Tuesday that the junior plans to leave early. He’s excepted to be a first-round pick, and McElwain said the program is excited for him to be in that range. Leaving early makes sense for Hargreaves. The staff wants to make sure players that aren’t obvious first-round picks have the necessary information to make the right choice.
“They’re all going through the process,” McElwain said. “We’re helping them in every way, shape and form. We’re going ahead with everything we can to get help from the league to give us as many write ups so they can have informed decisions.”
McElwain and the Florida staff won’t push a player to leave school or return for another year. They want players to be happy with their decisions and not feel forced to return if they’re ready to head to the NFL. The challenge is making sure that the players are listening to the right people.
“Here’s the hard part: there are so many people in these guys ears now that are telling them stuff that is not true,” McElwain said. “That’s what every school is dealing with, it’s not just a Florida problem. These guys, some of the information they’re getting is not right. Because somebody is trying to make a buck off of them. Let’s face it, that’s what it is. That’s the way it’s set up.
“As much information as we can do to help these guys with where they’re going to (be drafted), no one has a crystal ball that says you’re going to be drafted whatever round either. At least you can get enough information to say, ‘You know what, it might do me well to come back.’ Let’s take a look at what Bullard did. Call it the way it is.”
The Gators open bowl practice on Friday, and McElwain likes to handle things in a different way (as Scout reported last week: LINK). When the Gators open, seniors and draft-eligible players that plan to leave early will not practice. It gives the younger players a chance to develop but also helps the older players get their legs back under them. The NFL-bound players will return to the team when game planning for Michigan begins.
Bowl games can be difficult to predict when teams have many seniors and draft-eligible players. Sometimes players can check out mentally and not prepare like they should, as evidenced at the end of the 2012 season when Florida was blown out by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.
The Florida staff has continued to make sure the players understand how important the bowl game is for their futures.
“It also speaks to whatever their endeavor is going to be after this year,” McElwain said. “I mean, (NFL) teams look at this. Nowadays, the critical element on what kind of team member is this guy going to be and how is he wired, or is he going to be one of those that just throws it in when it's done? I think these guys understand the importance of that moving forward."