There were so many expectations to live up to this past weekend when the Gators travelled to Knoxville to take on the Volunteers. Some of those expectations were dashed with the 38-28 loss. But Vanderbilt is up next and it is an early kickoff (Noon EST) and the guys are going to have to buckle down and do their job
"We got a lot of stuff done today,” McElwain said of Wednesday’s practice. “It was really good. I think the aftermath and everything is done, it’s over, let’s go correct. And let’s get ourselves a little bit better. I thought it was pretty crisp and got some good things done. Obviously we’re doing some things a little different, earlier at night, because we went this week, we’ll continue that through next week where we’re doing things meeting wise and lift wise first thing in the morning which will get us kind of (ready) for the early start.
The loss Saturday was tough on everyone. You can tell the expectation was to roll in to Knoxville, win the game, and roll back out with their heads held high. McElwain says that didn’t happen, so they need to just shake it off.
"I think what was interesting is, shoot, as much for me as anybody too,” he said about being down. “I mean it isn't just for the players, it's everybody in the organization. From the people helping us clean up to the trainers to this guy, you know, get over it. It happens. Knock it off. So it's natural. Now, what you learn in failure are the greatest lessons in life. And we failed. It's easy when things are rolling along and bumping along great in your life, then you run into a wall and it doesn't feel good. But the more you pout and feel sorry for yourself the worse it gets."
McElwain says he believes his guys have responded well so far, but just like last weekend, we have to get to game time and see where it goes.
"You know, that's why you play,” he said. “I was happy with what we did. We'll go into ‘Perfect Thursday’, we'll be attentive in meetings, and we’ll do a good job in Friday's stuff before we take off. We'll get down there. It's routine, it's normal."
It is as simple as taking every little step along the way and making it matter. Attention to detail is something they have to work through this week.
“That’s, you know, that’s huge,” he said. “Don’t forget, no matter what you do every single day, you gotta take care of the now to help you in the future. That is being mentally focused on the detail that you have to do right now. Whether you come off a win or come off a loss, that’s a constant. Once you start to let that waiver, that’s when some of the things slip in that aren’t great. This is a good football team we’re playing. They’re good players. Look what they did to us last year. Our guys know. They’re going to do everything they can to win the game and we’re going to do everything we can to win the game, that’s the way it is.”
McElwain says the defense has to key in on those details this week. He also says that the offense should shoulder a lot of the blame for leaving the defense on the field so much to allow mistakes to creep in.
"Well, I saw some guys who had their feelings hurt and yet, objectively looking at it, I think that's the key,” he said about his defensive personnel. “You've got to take the emotional piece out and answer why. We didn't play with great discipline on some of the things that we've got to do to be successful against some really good teams. We're exposed.
“Part of that is this is the first time they've had to play a lot of plays. So as I look at it, the deficiency of the offense to stay on the field and to keep them off the field, that’s what’s really disappointing.”
One guy that was singled out for the game was cornerback Duke Dawson. Dawson got caught a couple of times using the wrong technique and allowing his man easy access inside and across the middle of the field that was exposed. Again, McElwain wouldn’t let Dawson shoulder all the blame.
“Good,” he said of Dawson’s psyche as the week has progressed. “Duke’s a competitive guy. He’s a really good football player. He played over 70 plays in the game. That shouldn’t happen. That’s a responsibility of the offense.”
D-Line banged up…
Florida lost Joey Ivie in the game with an injured finger and Jordan Sherit is also banged up. With two starters possibly out, the Gators will have to turn to several other guys to help fill the void. Guys like Caleb Brantley, @Taven Bryan, CeCe Jefferson, and more are going to have to be a little flexible up front and step up their game.
"Yeah, you know, Caleb's got to get us a little more probably inside,” McElwain said. “Taven Bryan's a guy that's got to step up and obviously Khairi Clark who's been playing a bunch anyway, but those guys, we'll focus on them moving forward. Getting some of those other d-linemen more involved on the inside and on the outside. CeCe's going to be called on to do a little more. Jachai Polite, who's played some for us. Luke Ancrum. Those guys are going to have to step in there and play with pad level, play with a sense of urgency, do your job, stay gap sound, compete, not guess, you know, all those type of things. The communication when you get new guys in there has got to be (good)."
Jefferson had a great statistical year last year as a backup. Those stats have fallen off this season as he has moved to the inside. McElwain says his sophomore star is playing well.
“He’s doing great,” McElwain said of Jefferson. “He’s explosive. He plays hard. I kind of wish everybody played as hard as he does. He enjoys playing the game. You talk about a guy who not only loves this university and his teammates but loves the game. I look forward to seeing him every day. Makes me smile.”
One player that may or may not see the field Saturday is true freshman Antonneous Clayton. Clayton tweeted out during the week that he is going to lose his redshirt this week. While McElwain knows that Clayton will be a big player for the Gators, he was non-committal on whether his star pass rusher would get in there against Vanderbilt.
"Well, he's really obviously a great player,” McElwain said of Clayton. “He's up to 250 pounds, very talented. I don't know where ... I thought we wear blue, orange and white shirts. I didn't know we wore a red shirt, so I don't know where that came from."
The injury front…
It is a mixed bag with the injuries with the best news being that Luke Del Rio practiced and they aren’t expecting any resistance to the healing from his effort.
"Joey Ivie will be out for a while,” McElwain said. “He had his hand worked on. That will be, I don’t know, four or five (weeks), something like that, whenever that thing gets taken care of. (Sophomore offensive guard) Tyler Jordan still hasn’t had any contact. His first allowable contact will be tomorrow (Thursday). He did non-contact stuff today. He’s probably more so an emergency guy as we go. But will probably travel.
"You saw Luke (Del Rio) out there, did some of the individual drills, a little bit of skelly. We’ll see how that feels in the morning. He would go anyway just like he did last week. But moving forward, Austin (Appleby) has had a good week and is ready to go play again. That should be good.
“I would say (Del Rio is) definitely questionable. I think the big piece based on what he did today in practice, we’ve got to see how the injury responds moving forward. Obviously he’d be a guy that we could put in there, hopefully, but we’ll see. If not one of (freshmen Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask) will be ready to go and off we go.”
Florida signed what looked to be a stellar class of receivers in February and so far there are no complaints about the group. Freshman Freddie Swain has six receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns so far this year, Joshua Hammond has eight receptions for 118 yards, and Tyrie Cleveland had his first catch Saturday with layoffs because of injuries and his was a big one for 36 yards.
For Swain and Hammond the game is slowing down for them and they are starting to get more and more touches.
“Well, you know what, I think that’s a case of a guy, it’s funny he said how much slower it’s been since he actually knows what to do,” McElwain said of Swain when asked specifically about him. “He said spring ball was hard, and yet having that experience in spring ball really helped him. And what he did over the summer is a lot of having to kind of understand the importance of the day to day things that you have to do. It isn’t just like high school where you run out there and you’re a little faster than anybody else. He’s slower than everybody else on the field here, so he has to rely on - that isn’t true - but he has to rely on his ability to understand technique. He has to become a better technician. He enjoys playing, but he’s also got to make sure it’s a daily focus - and he’s been doing that.
“I’d like to see him go up with two hands a little more and be aggressive after the ball. He had one today, I had to get after him, he tried to do the ol’ (one hand), and it just doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work. But both he and Josh, really happy with what they’re doing. Hammond’s a guy too we don’t talk much about yet all he does is do his job very efficiently and effectively. And I’m happy with both of those guys.”
Cleveland did go up for a pass in Saturday’s game and hauled in the big 36-yarder. He’s missed about a month of preparation since arriving in June because of a hamstring injury. The other two were also here in the spring, so Cleveland just has a lot of mental stuff to learn.
“He’s just got to become more comfortable with what he’s doing… understand his assignments, the attention to detail it takes to be in the right spots,” McElwain said of Cleveland. “This guy’s got a chance to be something special here.”