Florida head coach Jim McElwain discusses injuries, has updates on Jalen Tabor, C'yontai Lewis and Antonio Callaway and more.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- After 22 practices, the Florida Gators are focused on Game Day. UF will start preparing for its first game next week on Thursday, and Gators head coach Jim McElwain discussed the latest injuries and whether or not a few players have returned to practice during his press conference.

The Florida Gators are gearing up for game day. After 22 practices Jim McElwain and company are now ready to turn their focus onto their first opponent, UMass. 

"There’s a lot of things that we’ll kind of do from a routine standpoint, work situations with the crowd noise to get our guys kind of used to that," said the Florida head coach. "After practice we’ll do the routine that we would normally do on a Friday, actually. We’ll meet at the Gator head, go up and do our Friday meal, how we kind of go about that."

McElwain has seen many positives from his squad this week, however, he still desires consistency. 

"Practices this week I thought Tuesday they really came crisp, fresh, saw our speed kind of come back a little bit. That was good," he said. "Wednesday practice as far as back-to-back the finish was outstanding in how we closed out the practice the way we were working against each other and working to get better was great. I didn’t feel like we got off to a fast start, which is a point of emphasis for us, obviously the importance of how we come out mentally and start fast on both sides of the ball.  I thought we were a little sloppy. Overall we really finished well." 

Are they back? 

Nine days after being suspended from fighting, both Jalen Tabor and C'yontai Lewis are expected to return to practice - they will, however, still miss the first game of the season due to the incident. But Tabor and Lewis were not the only notable players absent the last two practices. Freshmen wide receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells have not been at practice this week. 

"Those two guys are obviously going through some things and dealing with some things," said McElwain, "but they'll be back."
Another players still "working through some things," is wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Although Callaway has been cleared in the Title IX hearing a few weeks back and has pariticipated in practice with the team, his status for the first game still remains a question mark. 

Medical Report

  • OL Kavaris Harkless is back. McElwain says "he had a good practice and was having a good camp." 
  • OL Andrew Mike will return on Thursday. 
  • WR C.J. Worton is still out with a high-ankle sprain. McElwain admits he is a little "nervous" about Worton's injury. "Obviously he's been out for such a long time, yet the old, dreaded high-ankle sprain. Exactly what that means I don't know other than the fact that it's not low," he said. "But it surely seems to take some time to get back and yet the one thing we do is we've got great doctors, we've got great trainers. We never push anybody back before they're ready, and that'd be the case there, and we miss him."

Healthy Anzalone

Although Worton is out on Thursday, one player is a picture of health after returning from his own injury. Alex Anzalone has eased his way back this camp after recovering from shoulder surgery, and McElwain praises the linebacker's recovery. 

“All indications actually in both shoulders his strength level and stability is better than it’s ever been," he said. "So, I don’t see any limitations there at all. In fact, he’s probably taken more than what we anticipated. And again, that’s through our trainers and team doctors as far as where he is. How those things are tightened up. There are going to be no limitations there at all.”

Jack of All Trades

It's no secret that Anzalone will be a big part of Florida's defense, however, if there is one guy McElwain and company will heavily rely on this season it's Dre Massey, Mr. Versatile. 

 “I like this guy," said McElwain. "The different things he brings, not only as a returner but as a punter, as a guy that can throw it, he can catch it, he can run it, and with he and Brandon [Powell], a year ago we used Brandon before he kind of got dinged up in a lot of those multi-personnel things but now it gives us two guys that we can do a lot of things with now.”
Don't be surprised if Massey steps back and throws a few balls as well this upcoming season, and if Johnny Townsend every goes down, McElwain has a ringer. 
"He’s [Massey] really good as a punter. Johnny [Townsend] has got a bad thumb, so, you just never know," said Mac. "He’s got to learn, he’s got a lot to understand the nuances of playing the position of receiver because he’s kind of done a lot, been a jack of all trades. But you know what, if he learns to communicate a little bit, and understand the importance, again we kinda talked about with Freddie [Swain] from a receiver standpoint, the things and the details he needs to play with, he gets a little better all the time.”

Young and Hungry

Massey will obviously be utilized heavily in the passing game by Florida this season, however, the young wide receiver group in general has made huge strides from this spring. 

“A couple of young receivers, not only Freddie [Swain], Josh Hammond as well [have done well]," said McElwain. "Moving forward, those guys, having spring ball under their belt it’s really shown their comfort. In fact, Freddie, it was probably about Practice four, I think it was, and he came out and said it's amazing how much more fun it is when you know what you're doing."

According to McElwain, there is a clear difference in Swain's confidence during practice because of his decision to enroll early and participate in spring ball. 

Swain's "grasp on what we're trying to accomplish and the reason why you need to be somewhere when you're at depth of routes or splits or whatever that is, his comfort really shows that he's able to play a lot faster. He's come up with some really big catches," he said. "Still working on that focus and consistency that all young guys deal with a little bit, but I really think I credit his development to what he was able to do during last spring."

Player's Corner 

McElwain had a few things to stay about a few of the players standing out at camp. 

On Jordan Sherit

"Jordan has obviously played a ton but had that injury bug kind of hit him a couple times. His stability, his knowledge of the game and what we expect to be done through the discipline of his play is outstanding," said McElwain. "I do know this, I just love the way he plays and love his approach. This guy’s really important to this team because of how he goes about his business. His discipline in which he plays his position separates him from a lot of guys.”

On Marcell Harris

"Marcell is a guy that just keeps getting better and better. He obviously is a huge piece on special teams as well and he'll to do that. Between he, Nick [Washington] and Marcus [Maye], that gives us some flexibility in a lot of different ways as you talk about that position. I'd still like him to keep his head up when he tackles, but it's something he's gotten a lot better at."

On Jarrad Davis

“I can’t say enough about him as far as what he brings to the Gators, how proud he is to be a Gator, what he’s taken on leadership wise and through his actions, how he goes about his daily work. He’s a guy that obviously is having a great camp. I’m looking forward to his season and his continued leadership moving forward. He’s a guy everybody looks to and listens when he talks.”

On Duke Dawson

"Duke's and really has upped a lot of the things. His ability obviously, the flexibility to play some nickel, but more than that be effective at the corner is something he's shown. His continued effort on special teams is something that I don't think we talk enough. We always want to talk about offense and defense, but a lot of hidden yardage is in special teams. We brought Marcell up earlier, obviously. Duke, those guys have got to have a huge impact for us there, especially in our coverage units as we move forward."

On who is the best natural pass rusher

"From the inside, Caleb Brantley is a guy with unbelievable quickness in his ability to work especially when he gets isolated on a guard is something that is really good. Bryan Cox is obviously one of those guys who off the edge is relentless in how he goes about it. I think sometimes lost is what those guys do up front to help Alex Anzalone or Jarrad Davis, depending on whether you are bringing five in some of the twist games and stuff to free them up.”

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