It's game week and in only five days the Florida Gators will open up their season against UMass.
"This is an exciting time for everybody. I know our guys are excited," said Gators head coach Jim McElwain at his Monday press conference. "You can kind of smell it in the air – opening weekend. Real excited about getting back in the Swamp, getting that energy back. I think, as I’ve said time and time again, that that energy in the Swamp was unbelievable last year and helped us every time we’re there. Hopefully we can keep grabbing that and keep building on it."
Although the team will discuss the minutemen in detail, the Gators will first and foremost focus on themselves.
“Really about first games, it has as much to do as anything with about what we’re able to do. Really, it’s about us, in everything that we try to do and try to accomplish. They’ve had the whole offseason. We’ve obviously broken down two years of their film. The fake punts that they run in big games that show up. It’s really about the unknown. And that’s the great thing about opening games. They’ve had the whole offseason to make some changes."
Who is Missing?
One person who will not be missing is Antonio Callaway. The wide receiver "should be ready to go" and is now expected to play for UF on Saturday.
“That guy’s a pretty good player. I think it’s pretty good," said McElwain.
However, there are a few others that are not expected to hit the field for the season opener Florida. Among those suspended: CB Jalen Tabor, TE C'yontai Lewis, WR Rick Wells and WR Tyrie Cleveland. There is also an unnamed senior, who will also be out on Saturday.
Expect anybody to be out because of injuries or suspensions
Respecting the Enemy
McElwain has full respect for the UMass program and what head coach Mark Whipple has been able to accomplish.
“Coach Whipple, obviously, is a guy who’s won a national title there when they were I-AA. He’s a guy that I’ve obviously studied over the years, his NFL background, things he’s done offensively. Got a ton of respect for, when he was at Miami with Randy [Shannon]," said McElwain. "I think he just does an outstanding job."
- WR C.J. Worton - The wide out will be put to the "test." Worton is expected to have limited reps during Monday's practice.
- OT Andrew Mike-should be fully back
- RB Jordan Cronkrite- should be back
- TE DeAndre Goolsby is "banged up," however, McElwain expects him to be able to go later this week.
- WR Kalif Jackson (foot) is out
- OG Antonio Riles (ACL) out
- DB Quincy Lenton (foot)-out
- DB C.J. McWilliams (ACL)
The Quarterback Question
No real question, Luke Del Rio is the start for the Gators.
"There seems to be a real kind of settling in there as far as that voice in the huddle, which is a good thing," said McElwain. "I think as time goes that's one of those deals that you've got to continue to move forward with that leadership and that voice... But I think the key is our guys settling into that voice and feel(ing) comfortable with his leadership back there."
McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier have a clear message for their man under center.
It's almost like we expect him to do things a little bit like a veteran in how he approaches it and the decisions we make, and yet we've got to be conscious of the fact that, I don't care who you are, this is the first time being out there and being the leader of the Florida Gators. I think the big thing for him is, as I constantly will tell him, first off, what color jerseys we're going to be wearing that day and it would be a pretty good idea to throw it to those colored jerseys. And then the second thing is take what the defense gives you and eventually they'll give you the game. Remembering some of those things when you go in as an early starter, I think, is huge."
"It's something we're talking about right now because both of those guys have done," said McElwain. "I'd like to be able to get both of those guys some reps, if possible because obviously we have to have an established third at some point. We'll kind of see where it goes from there. We haven't made a definitive decision there on that and yet that's something that we need to look down the road at, no doubt about it."
McElwain has not ruled out red-shirting one of the freshman quarterbacks.
"I think that would be ideal, but I do know this: we have to prepare somebody to play in that spot and both of them have done a really good job."
On Saturday, the Gators will not only open up their season, but will play on the newly named Steve Spurrier Florida Field.
"Well, I hope they put some like winning turf in there or something," joked Mac. "I've got to ask our grounds guy. But no, I think that's something special and obviously for him I think what a fitting tribute. And to have him back and be a part of that is something that's pretty neat."
According to McElwain, the team will practice in the evenings this week, allowing the players to work at the academic center during the day and then have team meetings in the afternoon.
"I think the big thing for us is, you know, go out and have a good time, let’s play fast, let’s adjust, let’s not let, things are going to happen in first games you just can’t let it affect you," said McElwain. "Clap it off, go to the next play, and make the adjustments. I think opening games are as much as anything about in-game adjustments because teams are going to be a little different than they were the year before. That puts a premium on the coaches to make the adjustments both between series and obviously at halftime as you move forward. It should be a lot of fun. Looking forward to the energy in The Swamp.”