Florida Gators practice update: Jim McElwain likely going with hot hand at quarterback

By Adam Silverstein
September 17, 2015

More pleased with his team’s efforts over the last few days, Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain was in a better mood when he met with the media Wednesday evening ahead of his squad’s upcoming road contest against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Lexington, Kentucky.

McElwain discussed the continuing quarterback battle, provided some injury updates and also explained how one of Florida’s players has handled a difficult week with plenty of media attention.

Prelude to a starter? Though McElwain has struggled to find separation from his two primary quarterbacks through the first couple of games, everything may come to a head Saturday as he reiterated Wednesday that both redshirt freshman Will Grier and sophomore Treon Harris will see action against Kentucky. “I foresee both guys playing, nothing new there. I think there again the partnership has been good. I think the team has settled into it. They’re just out there competing,” he said.

McElwain said the coaching staff would review tape and “sleep on it” Wednesday, likely figuring out which quarterback would start the game during Perfect Thursday. He believes “both guys are ready” but does not think it matters who he chooses as the team has “settled into” the situation. The good news, McElwain said, is that both Grier and Harris have prepared as starters for the first three games. He also does not have a timeline to choose a starter, but admitted that he could certainly go with the hot hand approach Saturday, which could be a precursor to one being named.

“That’s what we’d like to get to. If a guy’s hitting threes and filling it up like Freeman Williams used to … you don’t take the guy out ‘cause he’s filling it up. That’s kind of what we’ll try to do as well,” McElwain explained. “At the same token, the prescribed amount of reps, it’s not going to be one of those deals where guy makes a bad throw and [you react to it]. I don’t believe in that either. We have those [scheduled] reps, but if a guy’s hitting it and distributing it and got a good stroke going, we’ll go with it.”

Injury updates: In addition to freshman offensive tackle Martez Ivey being cleared by doctors and returning to practice – where he looked “good to go,” per McElwain – junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III appears ready to play at Kentucky. Hargreaves went “from questionable to probable” after an issue-free practice Wednesday and will be suiting up for Florida as long as everything remains on track through Perfect Thursday.

Redshirt sophomore Rush Jordan Sherit (foot) practiced Tuesday and against on Wednesday, but McElwain noted that Sherit did not participate in as many plays as normal in order to allow him to heal up for Saturday. The news was not so positive for another set of Gators.

Junior linebacker Alex Anzalone is officially out for the Wildcats game and likely an extended period of time after re-injuring his surgically-repaired shoulder. “That’s a big loss. That guy’s a good player. We need to get him back. Obviously he won’t be going this week. That’ll be one of those deals as it goes down the road we’ll see kind of where it’s at. There’s not a time frame on it yet,” McElwain said.

Two new injuries McElwain announced were to redshirt senior QB/wide receiver Josh Grady, who “pulled up with a leg” and is doubtful for the game, and redshirt freshman tight end C’yontai Lewis, who hurt his hand towards the end of Tuesday’s practice and worked Wednesday in a club after getting X-rays taken. With Lewis likely sidelined, redshirt freshman Moral Stephens and freshman Camrin Knight will see time at tight end so Florida can continue to use its three-TE sets.

Redshirt sophomore Case Harrison (thumb) is also out for a couple of weeks.

Notes and bits

» McElwain on how junior running back Kelvin Taylor has performed this week: “He’s been good. I think the one thing that gets lost in all this is what a great person, what a great player, what a great teammate Kelvin Taylor is. He’s a guy that doesn’t miss anything. He’s always there early. It’s important to him. His teammates respect the heck out of him. That’s what you want. … You just send a message a little bit. He’ll play a ton. I’m sure glad he’s on our team. He’s a wonderful guy to be around and it’s important to him. And you know, the other great thing there too is the Gators mean a lot to him – a lot – and that’s pretty cool.”

» McElwain was pleased with how practice has gone this week for the Gators, noting that Tuesday and Wednesday were “good work days,” perhaps unlike last week. “As indicators go, we’ve had a good week from the get-go,” he said.

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