Head coach Jim McElwain took the field with the Florida Gators for the third time on Friday as the 2015 spring practice session rolled along. Afterwards, McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier met with the media in a short sessions to discuss some of the early goings on with the team.
“First day of getting some pads on, we went shells today. It was good to kind of hear some of the pads cracking a little bit, which was kind of fun. I thought their tempo overall was pretty good, just OK. I think the thing that we need to kind of understand is the pace of which we practice, the different post drills that we do that are going on at the same time and the understanding as to why we do it and to create chaos, to help them understand to focus on the details to be successful to execute each and every play. So that is what we’re getting to. I thought our guys did a really good job of fighting through a lot of it today. It was good to get some heat. …
“Obviously the defense is well ahead right now and yet there’s some really good learning going on offensively. I felt really good about how they’re picking it up and that’s’ been real positive. … We worked some situations today. It was the first day we kind of really got down into the different red areas as well as really started to work some third-down stuff. Understanding each and every down and what the situation is, that’s something that both sides of the ball I thought defense did a really good job on third down today and we’ll see tomorrow when we get out of practice tomorrow afternoon.”
Starting from scratch, again
Asked how different Florida’s offense is from the one it ran in 2014 under Kurt Roper, which was a modification from the one run in 2012-13 under Brent Pease, McElwain was relatively blunt with his reply. “Quite a bit, no doubt about it,” he said.
However, when McElwain was asked to elaborate, the consistently and frustratingly close-to-the-vest coach basically refused.
“There’s principles within there that are all the same no matter what offense you’re running,” he said. “We’ve had three days to install. There’s a heck of a lot more formations, motions, shifts, different personnel groupings [to get to]. That’s a lot of the stuff that still needs to go in.”
McElwain said what he is most pleased about regarding, well, every position is the players’ willingness and eagerness to adapt and communicate. He pointed out that the wide receivers might be the standout group in that regard, noting that the wideouts are “getting a ton of reps” and learning how to be consistent. “We’ve got some really good teaching going on there,” he said.
Nussmeier echoed his boss, praising the Gators for how hard they compete. “We’ve talked about embracing change; change is inevitable in life – you can either resist it or you can embrace it,” he said. “They’ve done an outstanding job of that, and I couldn’t be happier.”
He has been spending most of his time with the offense preaching execution, noting that everything starts with nailing down the fundamentals and Florida has not come close to doing that just yet.
“Those things are very, very important because if you don’t have those, you’re not going to ever have execution,” he said. “So you got to start with the basics and build.”
Nussmeier has also put a focus on controlling the ball, limiting turnovers and not making any technical miscues. “You can’t have the ball on the ground on exchanges, can’t fumble the ball, can’t have turnovers and interceptions,” he said. “We talk about unforced errors – procedural penalties, false starts, illegal formations – those are things we control through discipline and those are things we can’t accept.”
Odds and ends
» McElwain on redshirt sophomore linebacker Matt Rolin, who has missed consecutive seasons recovering from a torn ACL: “Matt’s doing well. Obviously because of the depth at linebacker, he’s not short on reps as a lot of those guys. He’s getting plenty of opportunity to get himself on film and triggering to go make plays. I haven’t noticed anything holding him back. He hasn’t missed any reps because of it. I don’t know what he was before, but at the same time, I don’t see anything hindering his movement.”
» McELwain on senior LB Antonio Morrison being around the team during drills: “He’s there being there all the time with us. I can tell you what, he’s really working it, everything he can in the rehab area. It’s great to see him in the meetings, in the locker room, obviously on the buses. To be out there at practice, I think that’s something that’s important for our team.”
» Nussmeier on quarterback development: “It’s a learning curve; it’s a steep one right now. For them, they weren’t under center last year. So just starting from that, getting in a stance, proper hand placement to take a snap. Things that, if you don’t focus on little things, they become major issues. We’ve started from a base premise. I think they’ve doing a really, really good job from being eager, from wanting to learn, from studying extra. Like anything, it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
» The Gators have split up their tight ends with some playing more of a receiver role and others serving as H-backs, seeing time at multiple positions on the field. “H is the position in this offense you got to have a really good understanding of the offense, understanding concepts and those types of things because the H usually gets put in different positions,” Nussmeier said. “I’m really happy with those guys. Obviously we have to continue to develop, but their eagerness, willingness and want to has been exceptional.”
» Nussmeier said Florida has modified the way it normally trains offensive linemen during the spring due to the limited numbers. He would not go into any further specifics.