Gators' McElwain invades Brevard County

Florida head coach Jim McElwain continued his spring speaking tour on Tuesday and appeared in Melbourne at the Space Coast Gator Club.  A really nice sellout crowd of 600 people were there to hear him speak and beforehand he gave the media a few nuggets on his ball club including a few things on some guys from the local Brevard County area where he was appearing.

 Joe Cohen and Reggie Nelson come to mind when relatively recent Gators fans think about the Brevard County area and what it means to the Gators. Well, there are going to be three scholarship Gators on the roster from Brevard in 2016 in senior safety Marcus Maye and freshmen defensive back Chauncey Gardner and offensive lineman Jawaan Taylor.

The County has a big Gator lean to it and is a place Florida wants to continually mine for talent.

“I guess there will be three on the roster and hoping to add more,” McElwain said shortly before taking the stage to talk to the masses. “We’re doing our best to make sure that we get those that want to be Gators and the ones that fit the needs that (we) have every year. In our case, this is a place that means a ton to us and we’re going to do everything we can to keep those guys here.

Gardner has drawn a lot of attention since early in his recruitment. He was very vocal on the recruiting trail and was a standout this spring after graduating early and getting in school in January.

Kan Li / Scout
 “Chauncey had a really good spring,” McElwain said. “What was great about that more than anything was to see Marcus Maye take him under his wing, a guy from this area as well, to see him take ownership and help him see how we go about our business. We are excited to see Wanny (Taylor) too now, he gets here pretty quick.

Maye was a recruiting coup of its own back in January. He very well could have opted for the NFL and been drafted, but after talking it over with the right people, he felt it was best for him to come back for his redshirt senior season. McElwain expects him to be a big leader for the defense.

“I was the happiest guy that day,” McElwain said when Maye decided to return. “To have him back and really be the catalyst on that defense (is a big deal). He and Jarrad Davis both chose to come back. In Marcus’ case, he can really handle that secondary. I look for great things out of him. He had a great spring.

At the same time, he has a chance to keep perfecting his craft. A little like Jon Bullard did, he probably moved up 3-4 rounds in the draft by coming back.”


Florida ready for satellite camps…

The NCAA and its governing bodies have bounced all over the place recently with the satellite camp issue. These are camps put on by college football programs that can be administered off campus, basically anywhere.

It allows coaches during a quiet period to have face-to-face time and go to those neighborhoods where the talent is, to get it done. A couple of programs outside of the SEC took big time advantage of the rule last year and turned it into a recruiting event, no the SEC has allowed its schools to do the same and Florida is going to take advantage.

“We were prepared to do whatever the rules are,” McElwain said. “We will figure it out and whatever the rules are, that’s what we’ll do.

“It’s an opportunity for coaches to go off-campus during a quiet period and evaluate personnel. That’s really what it’s all about. It’s a rule, I don’t really care. We’ll join in.

Does that mean they would hold one in California?  Probably not. But word is spreading about some in Texas, Virginia, etc. 

“There are a lot of schools between here and California, not that we would turn one down if he wanted to be a Gator,” McElwain said. “At the same time, we will worry about our footprint that we normally recruit in. We’ll continue to do that.


Miami, big rivalry, but just another game on the schedule…

McElwain won’t run from the big games. He believes that is what college football is all about. The Gators added Miami on the schedule for the 2019 season and he loves the chance to play another in-state program.

“That’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I think one of the things I know and really love about college football is the rivalries.  I think it is something the fans and players look forward to. It’s another opportunity for us.”

But, he isn’t getting caught up in all the hoopla of playing a tough opponent.

“We play in a pretty decent conference called the SEC, and (it’s) pretty tough no matter who is on the schedule,” he said. “I think if you look at that you can probably say we have one of the toughest schedules in all of college football.”


Big expectations for Luke Del Rio…

Kan Li / Scout
 McElwain is rarely inclined to expound on any one player when he talks. He is focused on the team and the units within the team rather than the individuals, at least when he is speaking in public. But, when pressed on what most believe will be the starter at quarterback in the fall, Luke Del Rio, McElwain said he expect s a lot out of his redshirt sophomore.

He was asked how Del Rio might have done a year ago when Florida had issues at quarterback greater than they are this season.

“It’s hard to say because we know he wasn’t eligible, so he took a role as a guy that would help prepare in the meeting room and a lot of scout team reps which he struggled with throwing to the other team,” McElwain answered. “He came in, sat his year, learned what we’re trying to do and had a pretty good spring because of it.”

Can he get to that level of where Will Grier was playing last year?

“Time will tell,” he said. “Obviously we expect that, and we expect him to take it farther than that. But, that’s why you play the position. We’ve been fortunate along the way to coach a lot of good quarterbacks who have had opportunities to play at the next level.

“We’ll see how he leads the team and takes what the defense gives him. Time will tell there.”


Lessons from coaching in the SEC...

McElwain spent four years at Alabama and won a couple of National Championships as the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban. He knew a bit about what the SEC was like before he was hired as the head coach at Florida.

He says the biggest takeaway from playing a league schedule is that you really have to scheme against the personnel on the other team more. It isn’t just about matching X’s and O’s with an opposing staff, it is about all the NFL draft picks on the other side of the ball.

“Having the four year experience being in this league from when I was at Alabama, you learn some of the things that you have to prepare for week in and week out,” he said. “I know the preparation piece when you go against the players in this league, it’s a lot like when I coached in the National Football League, and you have to really be concerned about matchups.

“It’s about where are those guys and don’t let them disrupt the game. We have to try and chip and motion here and not allow this guy to get involved as much as he would on the defensive side.”

As far as Florida focused takeaway, he says the scope of running a big time football program is something he is constantly getting a better understanding of.  

“What is interesting is that you go through life and you want to go try and do your job at the highest (level) you can. In this case, we are one of the greatest brands in all of college football. We’re the University of Florida and doing it in the league week in and week out against the best.”


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