Meeting with the media for his first Monday press conference of the season, Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain had plenty to smile about following his team’s impressive season-opening victory over New Mexico State.
But with the Gators now in preparation mode for the East Carolina Pirates on Saturday at 7 p.m., McElwain offered some quick thoughts on the opener before providing updates on Florida’s quarterback situation and evaluations on a number of players.
What to do about the quarterbacks?
Nothing, for now. McElwain said the quarterback situation will be status quo against East Carolina, with UF playing both sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier in the game … though he did say flipping the initial starter and order of play would be a consideration.
“I thought both quarterbacks had moments that were really good. I thought Treon showed some escapability and created big plays down the field, extended plays. I think that’s a real positive. I thought what Will did was coming in with that two-minute drive right there before half. … What that shows me is a little bit of resolve,” McElwain said.
“Both guys did a good job. Both guys moved the team. … We’ll play both next week. As far as how we’ll do it? I’m sure it’ll be similar.”
McElwain did not go in-depth on the injuries to junior safety Keanu Neal (hamstring) and freshman offensive tackle Martez Ivey, though he referred to the players as “way ahead” and said they are “doing well.”
There will be a second update provided Wednesday, though McElwain is “hopeful” each can play at least some snaps in Week 2.
» On junior wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, who was listed as third on the team’s new depth chart: “At the end of the day, it’s about doing what’s right and really what you put on film. In that, there’s some guys that did some really good things. Some maybe didn’t show up in the box score but helped the other parts of the game be better. That’s what we got to understand in everything that we do.”
» On sophomore defensive back Duke Dawson and whether he served a first-half suspension for being late: “It was his choice. We all have choices, right? … Nothing against him. He’s a good player and will play and did play.”
» On senior linebacker Antonio Morrison: “Keep writing about this guy. I’m telling you, because it’s real and he deserves it. The affect that he has on this football team as a leader by example – that’s a true leader. You don’t have to do [talk]. That’s false, man. Lead through your actions. And this guy leads through his actions.”
» On freshman WR Antonio Callaway starting the game: “He deserved that start because he’s a guy who proved that he made explosive plays, he did what was right, the attention to detail, he caught the ball. That’s a guy that’s going to be a good player for a long time for us. … I’m sure glad he’s a Gator; he helps us.”
» On redshirt sophomore DB Marcell Harris, who was beat in coverage during the game: “How hard he played during the game and how hard he played during special teams, this guy didn’t take a play off. To me, that speaks volumes about how he wants to help his team be better. I thought it was good.”
» McElwain said he was proud of redshirt freshman defensive tackle Thomas Holley, who finally stepped on the field for Florida after a chronic hip injury kept him out all of 2014. “You’re looking at a year of inactivity. Kind of like me – I’ve got about 30 years of inactivity,” he joked.
» Junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III not only came down with an interception but caught a pass on offense and returned punts on special teams. It was the latter that McElwain was not completely pleased with. “His ball security? Something he needs to work on. Ball came loose on the sideline, unacceptable. That’s something we need to work on,” he said.
» On redshirt senior offensive lineman transfer Mason Halter: “I know this: I’m sure glad he’s here. I don’t think anybody when they probably saw the guy’s from Fordham probably expected much. And yet, his versatility, his energy, how he’s jumped right in the middle of leadership role as an older guy, I just can’t tell you how proud I am of Mason. He’s a guy that will play all the positions, I bet, by the time the season’s over.”
» On sophomore WR C.J. Worton‘s playmaking ability: “I was excited to see the speed at which he played but knowing what to do and doing it at full speed was something that showed up. … He does have some explosive playmaking ability if he allows himself to do it.”
» McElwain is pleased with what he saw from freshmen offensive linemen Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson. He thought Halter also played well in the game and said redshirt sophomore right guard Antonio Riles “did an outstanding job.”
Notes and bits
» McElwain is not particularly pleased with Florida’s return game, saying the Gators need to “get a little more effort at our special teams at certain spots.” He continued, “Disappointed on the kickoff return because that thing had, we expect that to be an offensive play. We had a couple guys miscommunicate a twist and we’ve got to get that cleaned up. We got to make that unit something that’s to our advantage.”
» McElwain was very complimentary of East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeil. He said the Pirates won’t be wow’d by the Gators or intimidated by The Swamp. ECU posted 530 yards against Florida in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, though UF came out on top.
» On Florida having a few errant snaps Saturday: “We need to be accurate with those snaps. We had three bad snaps and you can argue that two more were a little off. That’s something we got to get better at. That’s frustrating, because you can’t start a play without a snap, right?”
» On the indoor practice facility: “They did that right. … There’s a lot of space in there so we’re able to actually practice and have full practice and not hinder the drills. … It shows a commitment. IT’s something that was long overdue. What it does is it shows a commitment to his organization and this football program of something that’s going to help it be successful.”