Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain kicked off fall camp for the football program on Wednesday. Though he did not say much in his opening press conference, McElwain did address the health status of a number of players, namely senior linebacker Antonio Morrison.
Overcoming behavioral issues to standout for the Gators in 2015, Morrison seriously injured his knee during the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, an injury that has yet to be disclosed by resulted in two offseason surgeries, McElwain noted Wednesday.
“Let’s not downplay what this injury was, OK? Let’s not downplay – he’s had two surgeries on the same knee off the same injury,” he said.
Despite the setback, Morrison has impressed McElwain with his work ethic and served as a great example to his teammates. Though Morrison will be non-contact for fall practice, McElwain appeared to indicate he’s optimistic that Morrison will get on the field in 2015. When, exactly, is another question altogether.
“The guy who has really [impressed me] – God, I can’t tell you what a great job he’s done to put himself in position to have an opportunity to play this season – is Antonio Morrison. He’s well ahead of where we anticipated. He will be out of any contact drills but he will be able to do some non-contact stuff moving forward,” McElwain said.
“He has had a huge impact as guys have seen how hard he has worked, what he has invested and what he was willing to do to define who he is and what he’s all about. I just can’t say enough good things about that. Too early to say he will play but just know this, the fact that he will be out there is short of a miracle based on his knee.
“How hard he has worked to be a part of this family, I can’t tell you how good that makes us all feel.”
Anyone expecting Morrison to suit up in September will be disappointed, but it does not sound like an October return is out of the question for the standout linebacker.
“Always an exciting day. We just left our first meeting. The optimism in here is awesome. The excitement that’s in the air is awesome. Guys are ready to get after it; they put in a ton of work. They put in a ton of work for 15 opportunities – that’s what it is – 15 opportunities to play the game, put in over 300 days of work just for 15 opportunities. …
“We got a long, long ways to go as we integrate all the new guys into what we’re doing. I’m really proud of our older guys as far as indoctrinating the newer guys into what our expectations are to be a Gator and really be a part of the Gator brand. That’s something we’re excited to see.”
Bits and notes
» As expected, McElwain also announced that redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee will be full-go for fall. McGee broke his leg in Florida’s 2015 season opener and missed the entire campaign after transferring from Virginia.
» Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Thomas Holley (hip) is being held out of practice as he continues to recover from offseason surgery. The Gators are calling it “a wait and see situation” before he’s cleared to return to the team.
» Redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio, a walk-on transfer from Oregon State who joined the team this offseason, had an appendectomy and will be missing in action for the start of Florida’s fall camp.
» McElwain is pleased at how the players attacked the weight room this offseason: “I think you’re going to see a lot of guys that have significantly changed the way their body looks. I think that’s a credit to what our guys are doing in the weight room but more so what their personal commitment was to put in the work in the weight room. It will be interesting to see how they’re carrying their new weight. That’s going to be interesting.”
» The Gators will practice with a split squad on Thursday with the older players and younger players taking separate turns on the field.
» Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins (biological father) and special teams coordinator Greg Nord (mother) each lost parents over the last few days. Collins was in North Carolina visiting with family and unable to participate in UF’s media day.