Head coach Jim McElwain took the field with the Florida Gators for the 12th time on Monday as the 2015 spring practice session kicked off its final stretch. After practice, he met with the media to discuss some goings on with the team over the last four days.
[Thursday’s] practice actually was pretty good and a warm-up for kind of what we’re trying to do on Saturday. We’re going to do everything we can to create some game-like situations, different offense, different defense, working as a same unit. We’re still working out some of the details because of the depth [along the offensive line] and how we’re going to have to maybe trade some jerseys as we move along, but there again trying to work as much as we can to get a lot out of Saturday as our last opportunity obviously as a team to get after it before we get together this summer.
“Energy [Thursday] was OK, not bad, but just OK. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re going to be pretty darn good.”
It has been a difficult spring for the Gators. Not only does Florida have a new coach – and new offense – it is also dealing with a serve lack of depth at three different positions, most notably of which along the offensive line.
Despite the Gators’ dangerously low numbers up front, McElwain offered praise for the guys that have given tremendous effort through 14 practices.
“I will complement our offensive line for how few there are and as many reps as they took. Obviously we’ve got some real depth issues at some areas, which those guys started to work pretty good together,” he said.
“Linebackers, it will be good to get some of those guys back that are injured, obviously. And then get some of those running backs in there as well just to help us from a depth standpoint and get ready to go.”
The Gators have been running with handful of healthy scholarship linebackers and only two scholarship running backs this spring. Florida will add one linebacker and two rushers as part of its incoming freshman class but there is no return date for its two star ‘backers.
Nevertheless, despite these issues, McElwain has a positive outlook entering the 2015 Orange & Blue Debut on Saturday, which marks the conclusion of spring practice.
“But overall, I think the adapting to the change offensively, those guys have done a pretty good job. Defensively, we’ve got a good defense. There’s good players over there. Those guys are playing their tails off. That’s a good unit,” he said.
McElwain has not stopped looking for options along the offensive line, joking Thursday that the Gators are “out on the waiver wire” hoping to bring some talent in.
The only sure-fire bodies that Florida will be adding come from its freshman class, which will be thrown into the fire as soon as they step on campus.
“We’ve got a crew of six guys coming in that, as I’ve explained to them, ‘It’s not like you’re going to stand in line at Disney World, you’re in the Fast Pass line. You’re on the ride.’
“It’s going to be a huge summer for them, and really [a huge] summer for the guys teaching them because the coaches can’t obviously be there. They need to spend as much time, and those older guys need to do a great job of leadership to get those guys up to speed because, sheer numbers, there’s going to be guys playing.”
As far as whether those guys can be legitimate contributors that start or play significant snaps righta way?
“Those big-guy positions are more developmental positions by nature. However, it’s been done and some guys have had really good careers [starting as freshmen]. It’ll really come down to us making sure we do a good job teaching the concepts and as much to do with the person next to them communicating,” he said. “That’s where the learning curve is going to be right off the bat. And yet, that’s the hand we’re dealt, so we’ll do the best [we can] and get them going.”
Asked whether he considered scouring junior colleges for potential transfers, McElwain admitted he had, though he also noted that it is not that simple to add JUCO players due to UF admissions. He also remains open to bringing in graduate transfers but noted going that route is unlikely.
“The only way that can really ever happen is if a guy graduates and then we’re able to get him in school, into a graduate program. Usually O-line is one of those that I don’t think you see very often in that realm,” he said.
“You can spread the word, maybe somebody can do that. But we have spots, so obviously I wouldn’t say, ‘No.’”
Odds and ends
» On whether players might transfer out of Florida after the spring: “I’m sure there might be [some leaving], and you know, like I say, we’ll wait and see. I certainly want all these guys to be here and yet that’s a personal choice and decision that they’re going to have to make. I mean, we’d sure like to have them all here.”
» On how much junior wide receiver Demarcus Robinson has developed this spring: “D-Rob is a guy that’s got a little something-something to him. That’s a good thing for us. For him, his consistency has got to really show. He’s a guy we’ve got to take advantage of and get the ball to in certain situations. He is an explosive play capability guy and has become more consistent as he’s [matured]. That’s been good to see.”
» On whether the passing game has come together through 14 spring practices: “It’s just OK, to be honest. And yet, conceptually you see some flicker. The detail in which the routes have to be run, number one, has gotten better. And so as much on the quarterback for throwing it to the correct color jersey, there’s a lot to do with the tight ends, running backs knowing exactly where they have to be to create the field spacing, the route depths downfield. And as practice wore on, I thought we got a lot better at it. And yet, you know what? We’ve got a long ways to go, too.”
» On the status of redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick, who has not been in practice as of late: “He’s handling some things personally right now. Once he gets those handled, then we’ll kind of measure it from there. … He’s dealing with some personal issues right now, and I respect that, and we’ll see how that time works out.”
» On whether offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will call plays for the Gators: “Yeah, Nuss is the playcaller. Like I said, the only ones I call are the ones that don’t work. OK? The ones he calls are the ones that work. That’s usually how it is.”