Jim McElwain ready for Gators' Spring game

The Florida Gators finished off their last scrimmage of the Spring on Friday in preparation for the Orange and Blue Debut and Jim McElwain has been pleased with the effort. He saw some good things throughout.

McElwain talked a good bit about the quarterbacks, which we had in an EARLIER STORY . But also liked what he saw from other parts of the team as well.

"Really good last week,” he led off with in his Monday press conference. “I thought work-wise we were able to get Friday's scrimmage, felt we made some real strides in some areas as far as taking care of the football, especially in the passing game. Eliminated some drops. Thought some guys came up with some explosive plays, which was good.

"The good thing is really there were no injuries… but guys really got after it. I think we were able to get about 108 plays. You know, on top of that another almost 32 or 33 plays, which was really good. Other than that, the tackling was really good. I thought Chauncey Gardner and Marcell Harris really stood out defensively in that scrimmage. Not sure our fits were right the whole day up front matching them with the linebackers, but credit our offensive line, too, for doing what they need to do as far as helping us move the football. So that was a good thing."

With most of the install done for the Spring, McElwain is excited to actually get some work done on 2017 season opponents and also preparing for the big scrimmage in The Swamp in front of a large crowd and television Friday night.

“This week, heading into the spring game, should be a lot of fun and we’ll actually get a lot of good opponent work here the next couple of days, looking forward to that,” he said. “Also, prepare for the scrimmage, which has become a made-for-television event, so we’ve got two hours, actually an hour and 57 minutes to get everything in. We’ll do our best to trip that time frame. Will probably be similar to what we did a year ago. It will be a four quarters, 12-minute quarters again. We’ll put some situational in there. But let the guys go out and play. That should be fun. 

 McElwain wants his guys to play fast Friday, knowing that things are going to be simplified for the contest. He also wants to see how his young quarterbacks play in front of a crowd.

"I think it goes back to really probably the quarterbacks as far as kind of now performing in front of people,” he said. “You know, television audience, all the things that go along with it, and we'll try to treat it as much as we can from a preparation standpoint as close to game like as we can without ... it'll be very limited. I don't need Michigan to see what we're doing different because they'll obviously be watching it. Just like anymore, all these things, we'll be fairly vanilla, and yet in being vanilla the good part is you see how guys play without the scheme piece of it."

McElwain was quick to mention that what happens Friday night is just a piece of the entire Spring picture when it comes to grading his guys. Not to put way too much stock into the good or the bad.

“It’s another opportunity,” he said. “Is it the end all? Absolutely not. We have a body of work, plus what we do over the summer and into Fall camp. There again, it’s another opportunity and that’s the way it’s gotta be approached. I will say I’m excited how they’re playing. It’s been good. We’ve been able to stretch it really good.”


Difference in play of the offensive line…

While McElwain pointed out that you are never sure until you line up against another team in how any group has improved, he has really liked the way the offensive line has played this Spring under the coaching of new offensive line coach Brad Davis. He rattled off some positives.

“I think their energy,” he said. “I think solidifying that center spot has been really good for us, starting inside out. Tez (Martez Ivey) has done a really great job at tackle. Brett Heggie has come a long ways as well. I think the depth piece and more than anything the competition at different spots is something that always helps.”

“We're coming off the ball. We're taking a step forward and not backward. I'm excited about that. We’ve got… a long way to go, but I like their approach. They're playing fast. They're getting up and getting set and they're coming off the ball. It's really good."

Front seven needs time to gel…

As mentioned above, one issue in the scrimmage was the run-fits between the linebackers and defensive linemen and making sure they had proper gap control. That is an area that was strong for Florida last year with linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis on the field, along with veteran defensive tackles Joey Ivie and Caleb Brantley. All four of them will be playing in the NFL in 2017, so there are going to be some bumps        along the way with that group this Spring and likely early in 2017.

McElwain needs to see improvement with gap assignments.

“Just the coordination of gap control… it happens,” he said. “Obviously, some of the getting re-adjusted formational shift, that kind of stuff. The communication of making sure we get the fits is all.”

“The good thing is those young guys, it’s like last year. We lost those two guys midway through. Vosean Joseph has to really step up that piece now, because David Reese is not even there. I think it’s more than anything just that constant understanding and communication, especially versus shifts, motions, unbalanced things, all that kind of stuff that teams give you that are doing that stuff. That’s why you practice.”

Injuries kept to a minimum…

With no injuries during the scrimmage, that marked two in a row with that kind of good news.

"Injury-wise, the only really new one, we got Nick Villano back. I don't think Tanner Rowell will be back, but Kalif Jackson on the Wednesday practice pulled a (hamstring) so I don't know where he's at moving forward this week,” McElwain said. “We'll band him up and see if he can go, but really other than that, we're in pretty good shape."





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