Jim McElwain talks Florida Gators quarterback battle, evaluates players after first win

By Adam Silverstein
September 7, 2015

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.”

Injury updates

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.

Player evaluations

» 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.”


  1. Mac_supporter says:

    Adam, what exactly does Coach Mac mean with Robinson doing the right things? Did he miss assignments or run the wrong routes? is he not blocking?

    • Wasn’t blocking, avoided contact, etc.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Bingo. Robinson plays soft. He’s played soft the whole time he’s been here. He’s always either looking for the sideline or the ground and will gladly sacrifice yards that he could gain on a play in exchange for not getting hit. He’s like a cirque du soleil performer who wandered onto a football field. He can do acrobatic stuff but doesn’t want anybody to hit him. Probably would be an all-world flag football player.

      Some players have marginal talent but make up for it with a ton of heart. There are even some guys like that playing in the NFL. Robinson is the opposite. He has off-the-charts talent but not enough heart right now to put it to good use.

      He epitomizes the difference between a guy who can look all-world in practice but isn’t a gamer when the bullets start flying.

      • gatorboi352 says:

        Another dud from Mr. Jones.

        While Robinson did disappoint on Saturday, he routinely was out front lead blocking on run plays last year. Not only that, he’s always the most excited when others around him are succeeding on the field. On the sidelines he’s constantly hyping up teammates and staying engaged.

    • 5wideU says:

      Actually, I remember him blocking real well against UGA last year. Hopefully his mindset can be changed to play with effort every play. Also don’t like the way he goes up for balls. Too often goes up with one hand or is not aggressive enough. Hopefully Mac can get his mind right and have him playing at a much higher level as the year goes on.

  2. Iamtheeggman says:

    Robinson, and it’s not even close, is UF’s best receiver. Al of the knocks against him may be true, but it just hurts your team if you don’t have your best player at a position on the field. Even if he dogs it sometimes, he’s still your best option in the passing game. I’ve been frustrated too. When he caught the bomb late against LSU, I could not, for the life of me, understand why he didn’t just keep running instead of worrying about where the defender was. UF might have scored a touchdown instead of a field goal and won the game. I say might because UF’s defense has almost always choked the past two years when it comes to stopping anyone when it means the difference between winning and losing. The 2012 defense was great, the past two years the defense has not been. I don’t care what the stats say, since stats are only for losers anyway.
    I am very curious if this demotion of Robinson is just a psychological ploy by McElwain or it means that Robinson will be sitting on the bench a lot. I believe it’s the former, because, regardless of what some folks want to believe, Robinson is by far UF’s best receiver, and sitting him only hurts the team. If it’s the latter, it tells me that McElwain knows UF is in a rebuilding stage and wasn’t going to win a lot of games anyway, with or without Robinson. Sometimes you have to accept someone, warts and all, especially if there’s no one better.

  3. Drew says:

    The wrs that Muschamp recruited during his tenure here are not very good. Fulwood is terrible and Robinson is overrated. All Muschamp cared about was recruiting defensive players, which is why he was not a good head coach. He really didn’t have any knowledge on the offensive side of the ball. Coach McElwain seems more comfortable playing his hand-picked guys, on the offensive side, which is why the true freshman Callaway, Scarlett, and Cronkrite played a lot last week. Kronkite is a stud by the way! Lastly, our defense was also overrated the last two years. Stats are deceiving. Under Muschamp, we never got big stops when we needed them and teams consistently torched us on 3rd downs. I’d rather have a opportunistic defense, that can get off the field on 3rd downs, than a team that is stout against the run early in the game, and gets torched on 3rd downs late in the game. Glad Muschamp is gone. Auburn will learn quickly that Muschamp is not the defensive genius everyone thinks he is. Look at what Louisville did last week in the 2nd half against Auburn.