No. 11 Florida Gators football, coming off its bye week, continues preparations for its rivalry game against the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, Florida, set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Head coach Jim McElwain met with the media Monday to discuss the Gators’ mindset entering the game, the performance of his new starting quarterback and more ahead of the Georgia game.
Perfect timing: In addition to giving the Gators the ability to improve their overall health, the bye week came at a perfect time for Florida, right after a tough road loss entering the team’s most pivotal contest this season – one where a victory could all but guarantee it the SEC East division title and a spot in the SEC Championship game.
McElwain said Monday that Florida spent the bye self-scouting in order to improve internally. Not focusing on an opponent gave the Gators an opportunity to see themselves from a rival’s eyes and realize what tendencies need to be broken ahead of Saturday’s game. As such, Florida had to change a lot of its signals in the off week due to familiarity on the UGA coaching staff.
Asked about the SEC East race, McElwain noted that winning division and league crowns “takes care of itself if you do all the things that you need to do to be successful” during the week in practice.
“We put ourselves in a position to where what we do is relevant. It’s kind of a neat thing, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t take care of what we need to do today to get ready,” he said.
As far as his first foray into the Florida-Georgia rivalry goes, McElwain is pumped and ready to lead the Gators into EverBank Field.
“This is what college football is all about,” he said. “Didn’t matter what part of the country you were in, you knew the Florida-Georgia game. It was going to be a nationally televised game, and you set your calendar by it. That’s a lot of fun.”
Believing in Treon Harris: Though redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier more than earned the starting job and sophomore Treon Harris had been relegated to a backup role, McElwain once again expressed his complete confidence in Harris as he enters his third week of complete first-team preparation this season. “He did a good job and so did a lot of guys,” the coach said. “We have a team full of guys that needed to get better – not just Treon.”
McElwain also praised Harris’s innate ability to perform well under pressure, noting that it all goes back to his success playing at Booker T. Washington, a top Florida high school. “The stage is not too big for him – at all. That’s the least of the worries,” he said.
Asked to address the constant elephant in the room about Harris – his size at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds – and whether it affected McElwain’s game planning or Harris’s ability to succeed behind center, the coach somewhat avoided answering the initial question, instead noting how the player’s speed and agility can benefit the team.
“I know this: The guy’s got great understanding of how to … beat you with his feet. What that does is create pass rush lane issues for the other team that knows that they’ve got to control that to not allow him to use his feet as a check-down,” he began. “I thought his pocket presence was pretty good. Sometimes you need to shift and maybe find angles to get the ball through when maybe you’re a bit vertically challenged, but there’s been a lot of great quarterbacks that are shorter than I am, and they figured it out. We don’t look at it as any kind of negative.”
McElwain also laid his thoughts on Harris out quite simply: “I’m just glad he’s our quarterback, and I’m looking forward to see how he progresses this week.”
Notes and bits
» McElwain on freshman offensive lineman Martez Ivey and his selflessness: “He can play whatever he wants, and I’m sure glad he’s a Gator because that guy’s a big-time ballplayer. Here’s what I like most about him: ‘Coach, what can I do to help this football team?’ Let’s talk about giving up yourself for the benefit of others. … It’s saying, ‘Put me in coach, wherever you want me, because I want to help this team get better.’ That’s what I love about him.”
» McElwain on the difference the Gators saw on the recruiting trail during the bye week: “Before you’d roll into a school and they said you got to show your ID because they didn’t know who the heck you were and they thought I was kidding them when I said I was the head coach at Florida. Now there’s a couple more people that know, which is a good thing for us. The reception was outstanding, and we’re making some in-roads, and still need to obviously in a lot of areas. Recruiting is your lifeline, and we’ve got to get better at it.”
» Unprompted, McElwain took some shots at Florida’s internal staff, noting that the Gators need to do things better and concentrate on paying attention to the details. Of particular note, he explained how he noticed there were no flags (showing wind direction and speed) on the top of UF’s outdoor field goal posts, and at one point there was a cooler filled without any ice. McElwain stressed that Florida needs to get better from the inside out and is still not where the football program needs to be for it to be as successful as possible.