Florida football is gearing up for the upcoming season.
“It’s been fun kind of getting back with our guys the last week," said Gators head coach, Jim McElwain, on Monday at SEC Media Day. "Just seeing how they’re getting the vibe in the office and around the locker room and how they’ve welcomed some of these new guys has been good."
The season could not come soon enough for McElwain and his players especially after losing their last three games of the season, and not performing well the last six games.
"We have all talked about it a lot," said offensive tackle, David Sharpe. "It was very disappointing to us, we put in a lot. But we use it as motivation going into the off-season. We take it as motivation and everyone is working hard. We are ready to have our strongest season so far."
“Losing the last few games are a constant reminder for the offseason of what we need to do, what we need to accomplish and where we need to go as a unit," added senior linebacker, Jarrad Davis. "It shows our true colors from last year and how we react to a situation. It also shows a lot of areas that we can get better... We have been working on that all off-season and we are extremely confident in what we can do this year.”
Proving Doubters Wrong
Tennessee and Georgia have been the two teams picked by many to take the two top spots in the SEC East next season, however, the Gators are not taking notice.
“Yeah, I don’t know, I’ll have a meeting with our guys and see if they want to play those games or forfeit them," joked McElwain. "I guess we’re not very good is what that’s telling me.”
“We are very motivated by them," added Sharpe. "We are ready to play those guys…. We can’t wait to play those two.”
Will Callaway and Treon Harris Return?
"They're obviously back on campus, doing team workouts and some things like that," said the Florida head coach. "Nothing's been resolved left and there's really not a time frame on it."
But just having them both on campus is a step forward, according to McElwain.
"More thasn anything, the help you have academically, at the Hawkins Center at Farrior Hall, is huge. That's really what it's all about."
No Timeline to Name a Starting QB
There is also no change at quarterback, as far as McElwain is concerned. Although Luke Del Rio, who now holds a scholarship, is the front runner and is expected to be named the starting quarterback, McElwain is in no rush to make that official.
The coaching staff will continue to evaluate Del Rio and Austin Appleby during summer camp, and according to David Sharpe, both quarterbacks have the team's confidence.
“Appleby is a great guy. He came in, we welcomed him and he adjusted. We’ve all welcomed him to be a part of our family. He’s a great guy who I talk to every day. He looks good back there," said Sharpe. "Del Rio as well, he is a good guy and a great quarterback. He’s a great leader, a vocal leader. Both of those guys are great vocal leaders on the team, so either one. They are both great guys.”
It Starts in the Trenches
It is no secret that the Gators will need to improve their play in the trenches if they want success this upcoming season. After a season which saw the team allow 45 sacks, McElwain and coach Mike Summers have made the men in the trenches a priority,
"Obviously our offensive line play has got to get better," said McElwain. "Ideally, what we'd like to be able to do is be ten [offensive lineman], where you had, you know, kind of backups at each one of those spots. Whether we get there or not, I'm not sure. Usually in a rotation of nine is ideal. And you got to have versatility at the center spot, and that's something we got to make sure we have as well."
McElwain hopes to that the youngsters forced to step up last season can now hold their own.
"We need to make sure those young guys who played some last year and got their noses bloodied a little bit — like Martez Ivy, Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson — learned from the experience."
According to the Gators head coach, the team will rely heavily on Sharpe, who has vastly improved during the offseason as a player and as a leader.
"I think having David Sharpe here, a guy who has really stepped up and taken that leadership role with that group has been good to see," he said. "He's kind of going to lead us the way we’re going to go up front. From the standpoint of the most important areas on the team, being strong up front is what is going to carry us. So he’s going to be a big part of that.”
"I am going to be a more vocal leader, a practice leader - any type of way I can," said Sharpe. "I want to be a leader for the team. I want to be a guy someone looks up to and that they can come ask me anything. I definitely am going around with a chip on my shoulder."
Another thing of note, Martez Ivey is set to return this season as a guard.
- After injuring his hip again this spring, McElwain says Thomas Holley road to being health is "going to be a long one"
- Alex Anzalone has started the process for a medical redshirt, however, no decision will be made until his eligibility is finished.