Orlando has been good to the Gators over the years, whether it is hosting football games or home to some of the layers that the Gators recruit to play on the football squad. McElwain was excited to get things kicked off in an art museum nonetheless. McElwain will hit several big stops this spring in areas that are populated a great deal by Gator fans.
“This is a fun kickoff, coming to Orlando,” he said Tuesday evening. “Obviously this is a huge footprint for us in recruiting. We have a bunch of players from here and that’s always exciting. It’s a great Gator town as witnessed a couple of years ago when the tickets sold out like that, for a bowl game here. I know we’re excited that we’re coming back here in a couple of years and kicking off the season (against Miami) and looking forward to that. There are so many good Gators here and people that support us. So, this is a great place to kick it all off.”
McElwain says that he enjoys the interaction with the fans. Something some former coaches at Florida were not very fond of.
“I really am probably strange in a lot of different ways and people will tell you, but I really like people,” he said. “The idea of getting out… and really in this case, kind of where the program is and being able to talk about that, the positive momentum that we’ve got going is just fantastic. You know, these are actually fun. I actually get a chance to go on a real date with my wife and she looks forward to it I’m sure.”
With two appearances in the SEC Championship games in his first two years on the job, McElwain believes that the program is moving in the right direction. A bog bowl win, positive recruiting momentum, new facilities, and looking forward to a big time matchup against Michigan to start the 2017 season have really created a positive vibe.
McElwain says it is a far cry from where things were when he first arrived.
“I just can’t help but kind of think about really where we’re at from where we started and I go back to that positive momentum that really kind of started back in bowl prep and has really moved through spring practice and into phase four that we’re getting into with finals… obviously the designs of the new facility,” he said. “It has so much to do with the players. Look, the reason we exist is because of our players. That’s one thing that I know is certain and this is something that is really going to help the sustainable future of the Florida program and we’re excited about that. Knowing that we’re going to go into the season right away with a game against such a good opponent and on a national stage, I think those are all really exciting things.”
McElwain says that this was a vital spring for the program and that he believes the quarterbacks and offensive line took big steps in the right direction. He also believes that team speed was addressed in recruiting and that was really noticeable in the 15 practices held between late February and early April.
“I would say that from 1-to-15, really the emergence of some position groups,” he started when asked what stood out over the spring. “I think starting with the quarterback area, it’s really gotten better. I think I’m most excited about the development of our offensive line into a group that can really be one of those groups of strength for us. I would say… kind of one thing that stood out to me was our overall team speed. I was really excited to see that.”
New NCAA Rules Changes mixed bag for Mac…
McElwain was hit or miss on his thoughts on new NCAA rules legislation that was passed over the last couple of weeks.
One rule that he believes can be a little deceiving for some recruits is the spring/summer official visits that are going to be allowed for the 2019 class. Programs that have hard winters are going to be able to wine and dine during the time of year when the prospects won’t get a taste of just how bitter it can be. Florida of course doesn’t have that issue.
When you combine that with an early signing period, these prospects may sign with a program and never see snow before they are actually students at the school.
“Well, whether it’s a visit in the spring or the winter, the one thing we have is sunshine and palm trees year around,” McElwain said. “I think the early visits will help the teams that normally when you go up it’s covered with snow and it’s 10 below zero.”
McElwain says they just have to read and react.
“Whether I want them or don’t want them, no one really cares,” he said. “So, what I do is they tell me the rules and I abide by them.”
The NCAA also passed legislation that will allow for a 10th assistant coach on the staff. McElwain believes he is ahead of the curve on that one.
“If and when it happens, we’re prepared and already kind of figured out what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re kind of ahead of the game anyway. Every school will have that opportunity, so what does it change? What it does is it creates more opportunities for coaches, which I think is real positive in the profession.”
McElwain is leery that the change will have a negative affect the secondary staff that he is building at Florida. He doesn’t want to give up one for the other.
“I hope it doesn’t go to eliminate some of the off-field positions that have been created, because that’s helping guys,” he said. “When you look at a roster of 125 guys… if you have nine full time assistants… when you break that down, your classroom size, in comparison to the other sports on our campus, it’s really large. My daughter who is a teacher at Princeton Elementary here in Orlando, I know in education, the key to successful education is small classrooms. So, as much as we can do that, the better off we’re going to be as teachers.”