Image Credit: UAA/Courtney Culbreath
With less than a week to go until the 2016 Orange & Blue Debut, Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain met with the media on Monday to discuss the team’s second scrimmage and final preparations ahead of Friday’s outing.
At the top of the list was the play of Florida’s quarterbacks in the scrimmage. Suffice to say, McElwain was not pleased with what he saw on the field.
Just three words: McElwain was able to explain his thoughts on the quarterback play during last week’s scrimmage rather succinctly: “Eh, just OK.” Of course, he continued: “I mean, not great, not bad, just kind of keep working on the consistency piece.”
Inconsistency at quarterback is something those that follow the Gators have been used to for quite sometime. This year, of course, Florida is dealing with a pair of walk-ons (one a graduate transfer) and two freshmen all competing for the starting job.
Even so, McElwain said he was surprised with how well the Gators’ signal callers were playing at the onset of spring practice, even noting that they were ahead of where he had paced them. Unfortunately though, Florida’s quarterbacks have suffered some regression as of late.
“I think we took some steps back. I’m not so sure they weren’t pressing a little bit, trying to maybe create some things that weren’t there,” McElwain began. “Not horribly by any stretch of the imagination, and yet, my expectation at that position is held to a pretty high standard. But all four guys had their moments [in the scrimmage].”
McElwain was especially pleased with how the Gators moved the ball offensively, only allowing the defense to put them in one three-and-out on the afternoon. Even so, he sees a ways to go for the unit.
“There’s not a lot of panic out there. They’re doing a good job of communicating. Sometimes, they try to maybe do [too much] – I think trying to maybe impress,” he said. “[They must understand] that the key to it is let’s take care of the little things and let it come to you a little bit. Sometimes they try to make too much out of nothing where the best play you can make is let’s just come back and get back in the huddle.”
Explosive players? Aside from a solid starting quarterback, something Florida has been begging for over the last few seasons has been truly explosive playmakers who can be counted on week in and week out. With sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway sidelined due to a suspension and running back Kelvin Taylor off to the NFL, McElwain has been hoping to see some players step up and believes he got just that this past week.
McElwain has spent all spring practice praising senior WR Ahmad Fulwood, who has failed to impress over the last few seasons. Despite missing some practice with a leg injury, Fulwood rebounded in the scrimmage and continues to show “the want” that McElwain searches for in his players. “To see him step up I thought was great. He’s a guy we need. He was really a good special teams player for us as well, but we need to keep continuing that to show some leadership in that [wide receiver] role.”
Also thrilling McElwain is sophomore running back Jordan Cronkrite. Though McElwain praised all the rushers for making explosive plays in the scrimmage, Cronkrite’s hands and versatility allow him to stand out from the pack.
“Even how he has been handling some of the wildcat packages that we have been doing, you can just see more confidence in how he is playing,” McElwain said of Cronkrite specifically before moving on to discuss the running backs as a whole. “The comfort of those guys … it seems like a different group. They understand what they have to do. They complement each other; they are excited for each other. … The pass protection was excellent [in the scrimmage]. We had some heavy blitz opportunities, and they really stepped up and gave us opportunities to get the ball off.”
Injury updates: Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Brandon Sandifer will miss the final week of spring practice after getting a scope done on his knee. Freshman defensive back McArthur Burnett strained an undisclosed muscle, and redshirt junior punter Johnny Townsend provided a “bad gut pile” while dealing with an illness.