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"It was a lot of fun out there today,” McElwain said while speaking to the media earlier than planned. You can kind of tell we got off a little early. The pace was outstanding/
McElwain is impressed with the retention of the older guys and the way the younger guys took to the help that their teammates offered during the offseason when the staff is not allowed to coach them up.
"You know, always when you go into that first practice, the energy is really good, but the thing that kind of caught me is how much farther along we are from the standpoint of understanding the standards we expect as far as how we go about our daily business,” McElwain said. “You know, guys, it's the little things. Everybody was in early getting taped. You think that's kind of not a big thing, but it's a huge thing because it's a detail that helps you be successful and ready to go. It means your mindset is right, and we had a lot of guys that were really into it and excited. That was good to see.
"All four quarterbacks in both practices threw the ball really well,” he said. “I thought defensively, I think we've got some pass-rushers, and that was good to see. But overall it was a good day. A lot of fun. Obviously it's a little unique because we're still in classes. We've got guys hustling over, getting showered up as they get to tutoring to finish up some finals tomorrow. So as you know, tomorrow's practice again from a timeframe, is going to be a little later, and yet that's a good thing. We try to prepare our guys as much as we can, and obviously our first game is going to be a night game, so just the idea of getting used to the different times is something I think is important as we head into the season.”
"But you know, with that, nobody got hurt, which was good. And we did have Joseph Putu finished everything up he needed and got the physicals all taken care of, so he was able to actually practice. That happened last night about, oh, I don't know, about 7, 8 o'clock, something like that, which was good. And that's obviously we're looking forward to him helping this year's team. Other than that, open it up for questions."
McElwain liked the way that the team took to the individual drills as well as some of the finer intricacies on the offensive side of the ball.
“I think just kind of the command of the drills, you know what I mean?” he asked rhetorically. “Feeling comfortable and confident in what they were doing and being able to switch a couple protections. We had a couple in the run games, a couple mike point switches out of that position, which was really good. It helps you get from a bad play to at least a better play. Those are very important things in the way we try to prepare our guys in them understanding that they ultimately have the last trump. They’re holding the last trump card on every play and it was good to see the command more than anything.”
He likes the quarterback group consisting of senior Austin Appleby, redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio, and freshmen Kyle Trask and Feleipe Trask. He feels they are way ahead of last year at this time when everyone was learning a new offense and with Will Grier and Treon Harris at the helm.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” McElwain said about them being ahead of the gam comparatively. “And I saw that only because, let’s face it, they only had a spring. That’s 15 practices a year ago, and now we’re jumping into fall camp. You have a whole group of people now that have been through the routine of the how and been through the routine of the why. It just helps I think in the transition phase to be ahead naturally.”
Del Rio and Appleby were front and center on his mind.
“Both guys took a bunch of reps with both units today,” he said. “But let’s face it, you’re in underwear and helmets. It’s different. So what we were trying to get out of that position today I would say more than anything is command of what we’re trying to accomplish to get the other people lined up and see if mentally they were able to handle some of the changes at the line of scrimmage within a play call.
“I was really happy with both of their commands, especially in two-minute. We had a two-minute (situation) at the end of the game, needed a field goal and I thought both offenses did a good job.
“That younger session, the two-minute wasn’t a thing of beauty. We had a few sacks, but that’s OK. The fact that we were able to actually engineer that drill shows me we’re way ahead.
"I would say this: In all four guys’ cases, you can tell that they really took the weight room to heart. You’re talking about good weight they put on. The drops under center seemed to be footwork-wise, seemed to be pretty good."
Happy with attitude of freshman stars…
McElwain says he didn’t see any of the freshmen high profile players that were acting like they were too cool to be on the second team.
“I don’t see that with this group,” he said. “There wasn’t any guys out there prancing around think that they own the joint. They were just trying to get lined up, and that’s a good thing.”
Callaway not looking rusty…
One sight we saw Thursday that we didn’t see in the spring was sophomore receiver Antonio Callaway. Suspended form all team activities until a few weeks ago Callaway was back at practice for the first time since bowl week in January. He didn’t line up with the first unit, but McElwain said he looked like his old All-SEC self during the practice period.
“Yeah, you know, I mean, obviously to get a guy who took a ton of snaps, anytime you get that kind of experience it obviously helps.
“He didn’t look like he really missed a beat. He made some plays, got lined up. Messed up on a smash concept. Versus press coverage, you’ve got to run a web and he didn’t do it. That tells me he’s not all the way there yet.”
Importance of depth on the offensive line…
One thing Florida has to do is really work on building the depth on the offensive line. They pretty much know who the first 6-7 guys are, but getting numbers 8-10 will be a work in progress.
“Well let’s face it, we need that,” McElwain said. “And we need to put pressure on those guys to take the next step sooner than later. In a practice like this the one thing I could tell was they were set into the right place in pass protection and they weren’t just sitting there, they were actually talking to each other. Which tells me they were communicating at least based off the Mike point, where their combination blocks were going. So I’d say in that case, those guys re ahead of, obviously, where they were a year ago.
“(I’ll) tell you, (Jawaan) Taylor today – I don’t usually throw out names, don’t think he’s like a first-team All-SEC player, guys, but I will tell you this… I was impressed with that. I was impressed with Brett Heggie taking control, especially with not being here and just having the summer, which tells me Cam Dillard did a great job with him this offseason. I thought that was good up front.”
Excited to see Clayton…
Former 5-star defensive end prospect Antonneous Clayton had his first practice and McElwain really liked what he saw from the young man.
"I am really glad I wasn’t the open end tackle trying to protect against the guy,” McElwain gushed. “Here is the really good thing. In some of the drills we had to pull the reigns a little bit. The guy just loves football. You can tell when he gets out there. He has a great personality."
McElwain says he is up a little bit with his weight since he arrived on campus.
"Since he checked in I think he’s actually put on 12,” he said. “He probably lost weight today and that is good. It means he was working."
Weight room has been good for some…
“Jordan Smith is a guy, just looking at him in uniform, I was kind of like, ‘Geesh, you’re actually starting to kind of grow up.’,” McElwain said. “I think as you guys even saw maybe out there, we got a little size wise, but more than that our length is really good. I think Brandon Sandifer to say - you’re talking about those young guards - for a guy that’s reshaped his body downward. I think he’s done a heck of a job. Fred Johnson, who you know, who keeps getting … Guys look good in their uniforms which makes you at least happy about getting off the bus.”
McElwain was asked and mentioned about transfer punter Tommy Townsend, who signed with Tennessee a couple of years ago and will start school at Florida in late August. Then he went on to expound about the talent that Tennessee has on their roster.
“Yeah, he’ll be here when schools starts, so yeah kind of excited about that.”
“I know this, they’ve got a heck of a punter. I mean really good,” he said. “Not only that, but it sounds like they’ve got just all the best players in this league.”