Jim McElwain, Florida Set for Friday Scrimmage

GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- Florida head coach Jim McElwain and the Gators are gearing up for another scrimmage on Friday afternoon. He discusses where the team stands ahead of the second scrimmage.

Florida football is gearing up for another scrimmage on Friday afternoon.  
"Today's a big day for a lot of guys as far as being able to get another opportunity to go out in the Swamp and we'll look to get probably the same amount of plays, maybe a few more based on some situations," said Florida head coach Jim McElwain during his press conference. 
The Gators will work on winning first down and third down situations, "if you win 1st down on either side of the ball, your chances of being successful is much better within each drive," added McElwain. "It goes back to a year-to-year statistical breakdown on success rates when you win or lose first down. That’s something that we studied big in the offseason... It’s an important down that sometimes gets lost.
"When you’re in that second and long situation, you’re a little more predictable," he said.  "For us it’s a matter of teaching as many situational things, number one, but number two the importance of each and every down. A lot of emphasis put on third down, should be. But you can help yourself with the emphasis on third down by winning first down. 
He adds, "thats the mentality that great teams have."
The team will also work on two-minute, four-minute, special teams and overtime situations. Mcelwain hopes to do about 120-127 reps with the team in the stadium. 

Looking for Consistency

McElwain will hope to see some consistency from the wide receivers and his pass catchers in general during scrimmage on Friday
“There hasn’t been an inordinate amount of drops, which can go two ways. I think the quarterbacks are putting it pretty good on them, too," he said. "I’ve been really happy to see the consistency in which they’ve played catching the football.
"I’m not only talking wideouts there. That’s really all the skill guys. I think I mentioned the running backs have done a heck of a job as well as the tight ends. Their understanding of the reason they’ve got to get to a certain depth conceptually, which they’ve done. You just see some good growth in that area. But consistency, I would say. Again, when the ball is in the air go catch it.”
McElwain has mentioned Fulwood as one wide receiver that has made big strides this spring, however, McElwain has been pleased with several of the wide outs, and hopes to see more before spring is finished. 
“I think I mentioned [Dre] Massey was really doing well," he said.  "Freddie [Swain] and Josh [Hammond], I’ve been really happy with these guys.
"[Alvin] Bailey was out for a while. It’s going to be a big scrimmage for him," McElwain added.  "He’s actually going to get a lot of reps today, both at the Z position and the H position with him, so he continues to grow kind of a report with the quarterbacks."
As illustrated by many of the practice drills the last few weeks, the running backs will be a big part of the passing game this year. 
"They're going to get it [the ball] if the defense is taking the other stuff away," said McElwain. "That's what you hope happens, and I think them understanding the importance of where they need to be when they're not in pass protection is huge. And yet what we've seen is some guys that, which I think will help our empty package immensely, we won't have to substitute for that position because they've proven that they can run routes and can catch passes and that helps you from a personnel standpoint, when you get into certain formational things."

Medical Report Card

  • Ahmad Fulwood should return on Friday, after sitting out a few practice with a leg injury. 
  • Cameron Dillard will also return after a broken nose. 
  • David Sharpe may miss scrimmage due to a "leg" issue. McElwain adds the leg issue is nothing "earth-shattering"
  • Kalif Jackson has had surgery and is on crutches and will miss the remainder of spring. 

Early Enrollees Huge Plus

McElwain has said many times that having the early enrollees on campus puts them ahead on the football field, however, another big plus: they are one semester closer to a degree. 

 "I look at it a couple different ways, obviously their maturation, not only as a football player but think of it this way, they're a whole semester ahead towards graduation," he said.  "That to me is the most powerful thing because at the end of the day that's what we're here to do. Make sure that they get a degree and this allows them to get ahead of the curve a little bit."
When the new class of freshmen come in this summer, these twelve new faces will now be veterans. 
"So it puts ahead their opportunity to play quicker because of their experience and which one of those guys that's yet to kind of remain to be seen. But obviously as you know where some of the depth is and some of the things, there's going to be guys that are pushed into service a little bit earlier."

No Drop in Energy

Unlike last spring, it seems the energy level at practices have remained consistent at Florida.  

“I think kind of part of what we’ve done is I think we’ve only gone back to back once," said McElwain.  "So what we try to do is make sure we get a good learning period in between so you could put one practice to bed and push the next, really focus on getting better that next practice.
"I was very upbeat with Monday’s practice especially coming off of the Easter weekend," added the head coach, "Wednesday wasn’t horrible but you’d like to have more energy. This scrimmage today, guys can get fired up to come into the Swamp which they should...We’re always saying be proud of what you put on film and give us the reason to play you.”

Spring Game Ahead

Florida will holds its spring game next Friday night, and according to McElwain, "it's going to be football."
Although teams have not been set up quite yet due to injuries, the Florida head coach wants to see plenty of competition, and says they don't want this to be just another practice.
"We need to create game situations and a game-type atmosphere to see how these guys play on a stage," he said.  "So that's why we're going to do that simulation as much as possible. Special teams are the things you always try to figure out how you're going to organize that in it. We've got to see Eddy kick in front of people and not on his YouTube. This is kind of an important deal there."
A big important detail about the spring game is it's timing. A night game will be very beneficial for the team and the program. 
"I just think it's one of those deals where we open the season usually at night. I try to simulate as many of those things as we can so the preparation piece is another learning experience going into something that you'll have at that time," he said. "Getting people here in a night atmosphere in The Swamp I think is fantastic and a lot of fun. Then this allows us a good Saturday with a lot of those recruits that are coming in where we can spend quality time with them, showing them the campus." 

Odds and Ends

On Eddy Pineiro: "I kind of like the guys demeanor. You kind of tell him, 'Hey, we're going to put you in some pressure situations today.' He just smiles and shakes his head and says, 'I can't wait.' That's what you kind of like. And yet, he's missed a couple. I'm kind of glad to see that because he doesn't seem to let it affect him. As much as we can do in The Swamp with the Friday night piece, I think all of that helps. And not only with him but a lot of guys."

On Alex Anzalone"Yeah. He's been cleared. And as we said the Gorilla Tape and super glue and everything else that's in here has held. The duct tape has done a fantastic job based on the reports of the doctors. We haven't put him in any full contact. We did that same thing last year if you remember with Jarrad and Antonio and a couple other guys actually. But he's been in on all non-contact drills. He's been doing great. Excited he's back and hopefully he can hold up."

Defensive Line Emerging: “Zuny (Zuniga) has done great. Luke’s good. Keivonnis has made huge strides. Those three guys just kind of come to mind standing out, and they’re getting a little bit when you see them in uniform. They’ve put on weight. Not huge gains, but you can see it’s coming naturally and so those guys will all play a lot.”

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