Florida Head Coach Jim McElwain Excited to Start Spring

GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- Florida head coach Jim McElwain discusses the big storylines surrounding Gators football ahead of spring practice including injuries and suspensions.

***TRANSCIPT***

OPENING STATEMENT

Should be a lot of fun. I’m really excited how our guys have attacked this offseason, and I guess more so, they are now understanding the expectations and how about they go about their business and really happy with that. Probably more so in yesterday’s conditioning bring back from a week of spring break, and just seeing the guys that worked themselves wherever they were at over spring because they  ran really well. That bodes well going into spring practice. 

We will have a couple of practice just high schools come out and watch. Friday’s practice should have a pretty good crew of people there and we’ll finish that up with a little question and answer with our coaches in the indoor after that, that will be on Friday. 

Obviously one thing that is a little bit different for us this year is the energy that is created when you infuse 12 new bodies in the spring. Sometimes you get a couple here and there, but this is actually a very large amount. Whats been kinda cool their energy and excitement which is kinda contagious with the rest of the guys and it will be interesting to see those guys’ eyes get wide open when we start the pace in which we go. This will be an interesting experience for those guys. I am excited for the veterans that have kinda educated these guys a little bit on how we go about practice and what we do. That should be pretty fun. 

We will be without a couple of guys that have not been with our team since January in Treon [Harris] and Antonio [Callaway]. Their still doing some schoolwork and that kind of stuff, but they have not been with us since January. They won’t be with us as we are rolling, so you won’t see those guys out there at practice. Guys, that’ll be the last that we talk about that.

On the injury front, coming off a season surgeries. Brandon Powell and Martez Ivey will not go at all in practice. We have a couple of kickers that are in the same boat that won’t be out there kicking, but we do have one guy [Eddy Pineiro] that is here, so that will be good we will be able to do that. Alex Anzalone the duct tape held and was really strong actually. So he got cleared. He'll still be non-contact, but we got great news on the power of duct tape. Quincy Wilson and Joey Ivie with those hernias deals will be limited but should be going, they have been running, and in fact Quincy, I was really impressed on how he ran yesterday, so I don’t see any lingering effects there.  

We've had some flus and some sickness and that kind of stuff, as I cough, but I'm kind of excited where they're at. They look like they're in pretty good shape. We'll find out as you guys have been doing this a long time yourselves. You know the difference between thinking you're in shape and then when you're actually out there doing drills and going through it. The good thing is we're in Florida, where we can get a lot of practices in. Should be a lot of fun. 

Duct tape with Alex, is there a benefit to have him sit aside and not reaggravate the injury and have David Reese step in? 

David is going to get a ton of reps, as you know how we practice as well. We were in that situation a year ago with Antonio and Jared that didn’t practice really at all, and our numbers now are much better and him being able to do a lot of the non-contact drills and a lot of the things that way, it is going to benefit a guy like David because he will be able to have a second coach in his ear as they are going through it. He [Alex] had a real bounce in his step when he heard the news.  He actually texted me on my birthday to let him know, you can tell the excitement that it’s finally over and the duct tape was solid. 

Del Rio has a leg up at quarterback? 

Yeah. He’s been here obviously and been learning. He and Austin [Appelby] have done an outstanding job together with those two young guys, Feleipe [Franks]  and Kyle [Trask]. 

I’m excited to see routes on air, obviously we haven’t been able to do that. You can have a ball out there, you just watch them condition. But you guys will be there for that period. I’m just looking for routes on air now. It should be a lot of fun.

No McGee and Robinson and no Callaway in the spring, so who is McElwain looking on to make progression this spring to catch the ball. 

As you talk about the tight end spot, I think Moral Sephens has really elevated through his offseason and there is a real opportunity to jump in there now… and Camrin Knight, who took reps for us last year, when you see the guy go out there you might say who is that guy, well it’s because he has grown up a bit and has a great offseason. We need a couple of guys to step up at the wide out position, obviously the three guys coming in that are new, you look at a guy like Bailey who needs to take up a more leadership role. It should be a lot of fun, when you see those guys out there running around and competing. Chris Thompson has to be one of those guys as well as go. 

On the Michigan Loss

It makes you really excited to get going on spring ball and get that taste out of your mouth, a miserable taste that was embarrassing. It was embarrassing the way we played. It was embarrassing the way we took the field. It was embarrassing the way we laid down. That’s what’s great about spring practice. Here it’s a little bit different than in Montana because things kind of bloom year round here. But spring in Montana is when the flowers start to kinda, the tulips start to spread. Kinda get excited.

Here is a good thing, you see a couple of guys competing everyday now knowing that I just don’t have my spot. Competition is something that is very good for every position. 

Losing a starter at every single position on defense, how important is it to have established starters at those positions? 

We lost some really good players and guys that should be drafted very high and rightfully so since they are really good football players. For us it’s about those positions around those spots stepping up and elevating their play as well. Establishing starters, I know you guys get stuck on that a lot, but they rotate a lot in several positions, so to me it’s the amount of reps a guys is prepared to take come game day. 

Dre Massey on kick returns? 

He is a guy that can play multiple positions for us. One of those being a return guy and I’m looking forward to seeing Dre catch it and go with it. That guy looks like he runs fast, I haven’t timed him, but he goes really fast when he is running out there and it’s kinda neat seeing guys competing to see who is the fastest. 

On staff continuity…
Continuity is something that… there were a lot of guys coming after some of our guys, and I am really excited that they chose to stay. That means that they feel good about the direction we’re headed. We’re excited to have them back.
Here’s the good part. Now there’s a little routine. Everyone knows what to expect with the roles laid out. It’s just like going through winter conditioning… it wasn’t like this total new thing. It was like ‘ok, here we go, bounce around, go to your drills, get it done’. The continuity piece… I go back to teams that have sustainable success don’t necessarily have a lot of turnover. You always have some, but not major turnover. I am excited they are back.
Torrian Gray
He is a guy that brings a lot of credibility at the position. He played it at a high level, coached it at a high level. He coached and developed really good players.  That’s part of it too.
Obviously him being form the state ad being able to come home and getting close to his family, I think that is something we are all excited about. Not only do want him here as a coach, but for his family and to be able to be close to his folks.
 
Early Enrollees
I’m not really good at pulling a certain guy out. You don’t ever know until they get the pads on and you see how they retain information and those types of things.
As I look at that white out group a little bit. You brought up Dre earlier and seeing that guy go and Freddie and Josh and seeing how those guys are adapting and moving forward. It’s fun to see those new guys and see how quick they want to pick it up.
Here is what I will say about all the guys on the defense. They are kind of thirsting for knowledge. They aren’t sitting back. To me, that shows a lot. It also should tell you something that they wanted to graduate early to get here, so should I be surprised?  No. Because they obviously did a lot to get here early.
Twelve guys! I’m going to need a roster. We actually talked about putting tape n the helmets so we know the names. But I’ve gone ahead and studied their jersey numbers, so I will at least know who they are when they are out there.
 
On the secondary early enrollees
We have some really quality there. I go back and they did a really great job of getting players here and those guys are well coached and they did a heck of a job Their numbers are short, so Chauncey and McArthur will get tone of reps.
The good thing is that will be able to be taught by some really good players. Quincy and Jalen have taken the responsibility to help them learn the nuances of the position as well as the NICKELBACK spot as we roll guys into that spot, you know Marcell and Duke. Those guys are starters.  That is kind of exciting to see.
To see how Marcus Maye helps… that communication piece is something I am excited to see.
 
Kylan Johnson
He’ll be down with the linebackers. He’s kind of grown into that. I think you guys will see that when he’s out there doing the drills. The guy is growing up a little bit.
 
Hit the ground running…
There is so much more that we can do now, because some of the things have become less restrictive and that’s good. Our offseason studies have been so good as far as some of the things we need to work on and knowing our deficiencies and coaches feel more comfortable.
That’s part of the feeling out process and that continuity thing is huge.
 
Harbaugh spring practice in Florida…
More power to him. It’s totally legal and he isn’t doing anything that is illegal. He’s pressing the envelope and putting their name in the paper every day. I mean I would come to Florida too, there are great players here. There’s a reason every school in the country comes here and recruits. I think for them it is to gain an edge and give them an opportunity to practice in great weather. I don’t plan on taking ours to Michigan.
This is something back when we were at Eastern Washington we went to Pasco. When we were at Montana State we went to Miles City, Great Falls, and Manhattan, Montana. It’s something we’ve done in places we’ve been. I think it’s great to take your program and let your fan base (see it).
Here we are in a little bit different situation because people can come up and watch and come to The Swamp and it is a great place to see a game and a practice. The spring game this year is on a Friday. If that is what it comes to, then that is what it comes to. I know the administration hates it when you see the budget it would cost, so I’m not asking them for it.
 
Off the field staff moving on.
It’s pretty cool isn’t it? Part of why you do that is to help guys grow in the profession. To see them have an opportunity to get jobs from those spots is why we do this. That is something I learned from Coach Saban. It’s our responsibility as coaches to help guys get through the profession and be able to move on and expand their network.
For us we look at it as an opportunity not to plug in the same guy into that spot, but now it gives you an opportunity to look at some areas and see the best available.
From the outside it may look at a great job. But, you are going to have to get a job as a bartender, as a pizza delivery guy… multiple jobs in order to piece it together. It’s not like we’re paying a bunch of money for these jobs, but it’s an opportunity and we’ll keep adding to it and fill in needs for that given year. It’s an ever evolving business we’re in, so you try and plug pieces in to help evolve.
I don’t know if Valdosta State is going to rename themselves the Gators, but I am excited for those guys.
It’s a chance to get better. Not that the guys that were here aren’t good, but it’s a chance to continually evolve, a chance to learn, a chance to get  new set of eyes. It’s great for the coaching profession.
 
Bullard and now Davis
He really helped himself. We will see that here shortly and I’m excited for him as I am for all those guys. Those guys coming back, it says a lot and they want to finish their degrees. I think that is first and foremost in both of their minds and that is a real positive. They also want to help our football team and realize they have a chance to enhance (their draft status). Let’s face it they’re really top rim players and they have a chance to hone their skills, perfect their craft a little bit more. It will help them in the future and obviously help the Gators.
 
Any more switches…
There isn’t anyone switching sides of the ball.
Depth issues
Depth by saying sheer numbers and DB, we don’t have the numbers we’d like at that position. Linebackers, the same thing. WE are better at OLine with numbers, but we have to get better at that position.
I think you will see that we have really good numbers to be able to practice.
High school coaches at practice…
It’s good so at some of the positions, they can go ahead and count the heads. It’s interesting some will say to (the recruits), ‘they have all these guys and you don’t want to go there’. They think, ‘well hey, maybe I am better than some of these guys’. 

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