The Gators went to full pads for the first time on Saturday and McElwain was pleased with what he saw from his team.
"Saturday's practice was really good, especially in some situational things,” McElwain said at his Monday presser leading into the week of practices. “Both quarterbacks, I was happy to see, executed at a pretty high level, which you know we did dumb down a little bit obviously for their progress. But I think the big thing is finding out the understanding of what they feel comfortable with and going with it that way. They handled a lot of the new stuff that we've installed new to maybe what we've done in the past, so I was really happy with seeing some of that, which is good.”
McElwain has found time to appreciate how well the Gators Men’s Basketball team is playing as they will make the trek to New York for the Sweet 16 this week.
"This time of year going in and watching practice, evaluating practice, evaluating personnel every single day, talking about every player on your team, and yet making sure you get enough time to get in and watch basketball, it's a great time of year,” he said. “My hat's off to how our guys are playing. Mike's got those guys playing unselfish. You don't see a lot of guys calling for 'me, me, me.' I think it's really a testament to see the team play and be concerned more about their teammates and getting them involved rather than how many points they score. That's fun to watch. Again, can't say enough good things.
Brad Davis has made an instant impact at Florida in attitude, not only with the offensive but the entire team when they get around him. But his influence on the line has been immediate.
"Really excited about how our offensive line has progressed. Just seeing the energy in which they're playing with and the finish and kind of throughout practice, that's been really good,” he said. “To see those guys kind of joining arms a little bit, I think's a good way to say it. Have really done a good job, and we'll see if we can sustain as we move forward.
The previous offensive line coach, Mike Summers did an admirable job with what he had to work with. He moved on to Louisville and now Davis has taken the bull by the horns and expressed his desire for a unit that moves around more and gets after it, One that is going to continually push each other and the other guys in terms of urgency.
“Mike did obviously an awesome job with those guys and created the continuity when we got here,” McElwain said of Summers. “Hearing a different voice, the way they go about the drills, they’re not just walking to the line of scrimmage, and they’re playing with a renewed sense as far as how they go about it. He demands it from them. It’s good to see.”
Junior offensive tackle Martez Ivey is in the midst of a good spring himself. His first healthy one on campus.
“I think this is really Tez’s first real spring because he’s kinda been injured, right?” McElwain asked rhetorically. “I think just having him there has really helped as well. He’s really a good leader.”
Redshirt sophomore T.J. McCoy is the starter at center. Behind him they have been working walk-on Nick Villano. Villano was injured Saturday with an ankle sprain, so that meant junior Tyler Jordan and redshirt freshman Brett Heggie were getting work at center as well.
"One of the things we're doing is also with T.J. at center, we're taking a lot of reps with Tyler Jordan and Heggie at that center spot as well trying to create some depth in that inside three. T.J. has been doing a good job, but as we found out last year in whatever game that was when Cam went down, Tyler came in the next series and went down. We ended up playing better with him [T.J.] in there. We're making sure we have the depth in that and those guys kind of helping each other in that internal group to get that rotation there and get the rotation we need at the tackle spot."
McElwain is seeing positive footsteps from freshman Kadeem Telfort who early from high school and showed up at Florida in January.
“It’s great to see Kadeem get his feet wet, the way he’s been doing it, to see him compete and really more than anything kind of follow in Tez’s footsteps a little bit on how he’s playing it,” McElwain said. “That’s been a lot of fun to see.”
The Gators are also getting some nice play from a surprise in walk-on and former defensive lineman Tanner Rowell. Rowell is the son of Gator Great Tony Rowell. In a move similar move to his father, he made the switch over to offense and it looks like it is going to pay off for the young man.
“Rowell is a guy who’s going to make some noise for us as an o-lineman here down the road, which is good to see,” McElwain said. “He’s a guy who’s a legacy. He’s a good player. He’s put on some weight. He’s going to do some things for us.
“This guy didn’t fall far from the tree. He’s got a first-step quickness. He’s undersized, and yet, he can overcome some of that with the way he plays.”
Through the first day of pads, Villano seems to be the worst of the reports in terms of injuries.
“Obviously Kavaris is still out,” he said of Kavaris Harkless who has missed all of the start of spring already but due back at some point. “Nick Villano, one of our walk-on O-linemen, I think this is important to note, has a high-ankle sprain, so he should probably be back sometime midway through the season next year, I would guess (joking).
“(Freshman tight end) Kemore Gamble had like strep throat or something like that, I think he’s going to practice today. He practiced on Saturday. We’ll see how that goes. Other than that, things are going good.”
A few that are in non-contact are doing everything they can and still impressing.
“The guys that were kind of injured that are doing the non-contact drills, I don’t see Dre Massey missing anything as far as step, quickness or speed or anything like that. McElwain said. “C.J. McWilliams has done some really good things for us at corner, and he’s up to 190 and whatever pounds, which is really good to see. James (Houston), at linebacker, is going through everything. Saying about some of the young guys as far as their development. It’s good that those guys are here. Kemore is a guy that people are going to know who he is. He’s doing a really good job. Fun to see that piece of it as well.
“Other than that, we’ll go in shells today. We’ll get into a little bit of full pad on Wednesday, got back to shells and do a good situational scrimmage of some type on Saturday and kind of see where we’re at based on the next couple of practices as far as what we need to really have to emphasize in that. We’re going to work a little coming out (of the end zone) and end of game situations today. Really excited to see how the quarterbacks handle that.”
Redshirt sophomore guard Brandon Sandifer has been absent from practice all spring and as we posted on Fightin' Gators he is no longer with the program.
“He’s no longer with us," McElwain said. "He’s going to move on.”