Florida started preparation game plan wise for Iowa on Monday and as the guys returned from final exams, Jim McElwain believes the team is prepared to finish off the season strong.
“We had three really good days last week of practice,” McElwain said. “We were able to get some guys a lot of individual work as well as kind of preparing for some of the situational things game-wise. We started today with that as well, really kind of working a little more towards Iowa and some of their base stuff. We got that kind of installed today.
The team had a special visitor Monday as Collins was back in town and McElwain made sure to have him address the team.
“It was great, at the end of practice, we were able to get Coach Collins here to say hello to the guys. It was really good. It was good to have him there and we’re sure proud of him. I know he’ll do great things (at Temple).
McElwain has made no qualms about Randy Shannon heading up the defense in the game, but stopped short of naming him the permanent defensive coordinator.
“Obviously through this bowl practice, as we said Randy Shannon will take over the defense,” McElwain said. “He’ll be calling the game. Mark DeBastiani will handle the linebackers. He’s been a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for more than 10 years in I-AA football; been coaching for over 20. We’re really fortunate to have coaches like that in support roles so we’re not missing a beat with that group. He’ll be handling the linebackers as I said. But that’s what we’re going to do moving forward.
“We’re not going to make any full-time decisions on that until after the bowl games out of respect for coaches and people who are coaching in other programs and that kind of thing. I just don’t think it’s right this time of year. Let them focus on that and then we’ll move forward after that. There is no time frame. Obviously want to have it done before we get back on the road recruiting after the first of the year. That’s kind of where we’re at there.”
The Gators lose a lot after the season due to graduation and guys moving on to try their fortunes in the NFL. McElwain does believe the continuity on defense is important for a lot of the young guys that have already had a lot of time on the field. When asked if Shannon was in the mix for the permanent spot, he gave an emphatic “absolutely”.
"It's going to be young, and yet we've got a lot of young guys that have been playing this year so hopefully there's some good carryover on that standpoint,” he said of the defense. Continuity in what we're doing is important.”
“I'm excited for them, they've been doing a good job with what we've been doing and obviously Randy's more than qualified for that position."
The staff has made some arrangements to prepare for anything that might be different so that there aren’t surprises on game day.
“It will be fun and it will be different,” he said. “Some guys’ roles will be a little bit different than they were on game day. We've done some simulation things already that try to help that in a communication and what different people are looking at. We will actually carry that over to Wednesday's practice as well this week, and we will do two of those simulated kind of periods when we get down to Tampa.
McElwain also hinted there are other things that need to be addressed when looking for a coach to fil the vacancy on the staff.
“And a couple other (things) as we kind of look at it and make sure we answer some recruiting needs that we have and that type of deal,” he said.
McElwain wasn’t ready to give any specific updates on injuries with the large list he gave out last week, but when asked about redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone, he shared some promise for the Outback Bowl.
“From a health standpoint, really no more updates, (we) should know a lot when we get to the bowl site itself. We’re getting the guys back on the 26th and then we’ll prep a little bit while we’re here, then head down on the next day and do our first practice down there at the bowl site the 27th. That’s kind of the time frame we’ve got moving forward with what we’re doing prep wise.
“(Anzalone) actually went out and did some things the other day at practice. Beat some bags up, which was good to see.”
“We’ll know more when we get back and get down there. We’ve got a couple days of padded practice here coming up — he won’t be in any contact stuff, but he did do some skelly work and some individual work. That was good to see.”
McElwain also mentioned last week that sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio will be the backup to Austin Appleby in Tampa. Del Rio should be close to 100% next week.
"He should be able to throw,” McElwain said of Del Rio. “He has been doing footwork stuff and that kind of thing with us. In all indications he should be ready to throw come after Christmas."
Freshman linebacker making an impact…
Freshman linebacker Vosean Joseph wasn’t the most highly sought after prospect on the recruiting trail, yet he was one that the Gators got on early, made a priority and are glad they have him. He’s made big plays on defense when put in and big plays on special teams as well. He’s a guy that always goes full speed.
"Here's the deal about Vo, he's done a great job on special teams, as well,” McElwain said. “That's where you kind of earn your stripes a little bit, kind of like Chauncey did. He's done that and become an every-down player. And Vosean is in that same mold. He's a guy that can cover and run, and yet is physical enough to handle when teams are trying to beat on your with those inside runs. His understanding of how to play… sometimes he still runs through gaps and doesn't quite understand he doesn't have the outside gap and somebody has the inside gap. You'd rather have to dial him back than dial him up. He's one of those players."