Florida Gators 2015 spring practice: McElwain, Nussmeier on starting from scratch offensively

Head coach Jim McElwain took the field with the Florida Gators for the third time on Friday as the 2015 spring practice session rolled along. Afterwards, McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier met with the media in a short sessions to discuss some of the early goings on with the team.

Opening statement

“First day of getting some pads on, we went shells today. It was good to kind of hear some of the pads cracking a little bit, which was kind of fun. I thought their tempo overall was pretty good, just OK. I think the thing that we need to kind of understand is the pace of which we practice, the different post drills that we do that are going on at the same time and the understanding as to why we do it and to create chaos, to help them understand to focus on the details to be successful to execute each and every play. So that is what we’re getting to. I thought our guys did a really good job of fighting through a lot of it today. It was good to get some heat. …

“Obviously the defense is well ahead right now and yet there’s some really good learning going on offensively. I felt really good about how they’re picking it up and that’s’ been real positive. … We worked some situations today. It was the first day we kind of really got down into the different red areas as well as really started to work some third-down stuff. Understanding each and every down and what the situation is, that’s something that both sides of the ball I thought defense did a really good job on third down today and we’ll see tomorrow when we get out of practice tomorrow afternoon.”

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Chaz Green – Path to the 2015 NFL Draft: Team workouts begin in Gainesville

Through the 2015 NFL Draft from April 30 to May 2 in Chicago, Illinois, Florida Gators offensive lineman Chaz Green will keep you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft with exclusive comprehensive blog entries here at OnlyGators.com.

Green checks in for the second time after returning to Gainesville, Florida, as meetings have begun with individual teams as he prepares for Pro Day.

Before I left Miami for Gainesville, I first met with my trainer to discuss whether I would test again at Pro Day. We decided that I would not re-test any of the on-field drills, but I am going to do the bench press again, so he ensured I had everything necessary to succeed and perform well. He gave me a workout script with three weeks of lifting on it, and he also said he was really proud of my performances in Indianapolis.

My first week back in Gainesville was spent mostly training, lifting and doing either cardio or field work – running stadiums, smoothing out my footwork, etc. Everyone was on spring break, so it was very quiet in town.

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Jim McElwain talks injuries, depth problems, other issues ahead of Florida Gators spring practice

New Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain met with the media on Tuesday for just the third time. The 30-minute back-and-forth saw McElwain touched on a number of topics regarding spring practice and the upcoming 2015 Orange & Blue Debut spring football game. McElwain was once again extremely close-to-the-vest on most topics, often times failing to answer even direct questions.

INJURY “UPDATES”

With a handful of important Gators – at least as far as 2015 is concerned – injured with spring practice on the horizon, McElwain was asked to provide some updates on their statuses at the start of practice. He relented, sort of, despite not providing any specifics regarding the injuries or timetables for return.

Senior linebacker Antonio Morrison announced he would return to Florida days after being injured in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl. Morrison’s injury, a torn ACL, has yet to be mentioned by the school at the request of his family. “Morrison will be out. Things are going well with him. He’s really attacking his rehab and been with us,” McElwain said. “I’ve got to tell you what now, here’s a team guy. He doesn’t miss a team meeting. He’s out there at every practice doing what he can do. That’s really good to see.”

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Readers’ Choice: Lack of depth at offensive line, linebacker could hurt Florida Gators in 2015

Over five days from March 5-9, OnlyGators.com has handed a guest editor role over to you, the loyal reader. This is the first in five Readers’ Choice posts covering topics you want to know more about concerning the Florida Gators athletics program.

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There is simply no hiding the fact that Florida has massive holes at two important positions on its roster entering the 2015 campaign, ones that will make it difficult for head coach Jim McElwain to turn things around in year one.

The Gators will enter spring practice with eight scholarship offensive linemen on the roster, two of which have NFL potential – sophomore offensive tackles Roderick Johnson (redshirt) and David Sharpe – and another with starting experience in redshirt senior left guard Trip Thurman. The other five have either seen limited action or never stepped on the field.

Though Florida has plenty of bodies immediately across the line of scrimmage on defense, the linebackers backing them up make for an even thinner position group. Returning for his senior season and leading the way is Antonio Morrison, and the steady improvement of junior Jarrad Davis should help mitigate some losses. The other four scholarship players have spent the vast majority of their time on special teams.

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No wholesale changes, just more swag and edge coming for Florida’s defense under Geoff Collins

More Florida Gators assistant features: Randy Shannon | Terrell Williams | Tim Skipper

There was enough wrong with – and enough changes coming to – the Florida Gators that the last thing the program needed was to mess with the one thing that has been a bright spot over the last four years, it’s defense.

So when head coach Jim McElwain was tasked with replacing the combined defensive leadership of Will Muschamp and D.J. Durkin, he decided not to rock the boat.

Enter 2014 Broyles Award nominee and former Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, whose experience under Nick Saban (at Alabama) and veterans George O’Leary (at UCF) and John L. Smith (at Louisville) made him a no-brainer hire for McElwain.

“They’ve done a really good job. Coach Muschamp and I know each other. D.J. and I know each other. I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done on defense the last four years. The talent that has been assembled here is legitimate SEC talent,” he said on Thursday. “It’s not a wholesale change. Let’s just work on finding the things we can get better at and take us to the next level. … Finding that edge and going out and getting it done so we can improve upon where we are right now.”

Collins plans to keep it simple, employing similar principles, concepts and techniques that were taught by Muschamp. There may be some terminology tweaks and a couple schemes added to the playbook, but it will be business as usual for the most part with Florida’s defense.

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McElwain: pleased with Gators, gave players assignments, confident in hiring receivers coach

New Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain sat down with the media on Wednesday for the first time since his introductory press conference nearly a month ago.

The 40-minute back-and-forth saw McElwain touched on a number of topics that will be broken down here on OnlyGators.com over the next couple of days.

Though McElwain was surprisingly close to the vest on a number of issues, which are outlined below, he also discussed at length his initial thoughts on the Gators football team and plan for hiring a wide receivers coach, the last open position on his coaching staff.

SO FAR, SO GOOD

McElwain plans to make a number of organizational changes over the next 18 months but some of the first evaluations he was able to make were on the team. As a bystander during practices leading up to the 2015 Birmingham Bowl – and during the game itself, of course – McElwain was pleased to see a group of young men giving top-notch effort despite all of the circumstances surrounding the situation.

“Man, I just love the way our team played in that bowl game,” he said to open his press conference. “[I appreciated] the guys that held that thing together. The character in which they played with, the energy they played with, they made plays when they needed against a very, very good football team. …

“Just to see the competitive nature was great. Having an opportunity to get out in the parking lot before the game, I didn’t know it was like that. there’s some good people out there, man, that was awesome. I really enjoyed that. I was really proud of our guys.”

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Gators LB Morrison returning for senior season

Junior linebacker Antonio Morrison has decided to return to the Florida Gators for his senior season.

Morrison, Florida’s first defender to register 100+ tackles since Ahmad Black in 2010, received an evaluation for the 2015 NFL Draft but will chose to remain in school.

“I’m returning to Florida and I will be getting my degree in 2015. That plays a big role in why I’m returning,” Morrison said in a statement released by the school. “And as a leader of this team, I want to lead my team to Atlanta and possibly a national championship. Coach [Jim] McElwain has put together a great staff and I’m looking forward to working with them this year.”

Morrison is the second Gators player in as many days to pick Florida and its new coaching staff over the NFL. Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard announced Monday that he will return to UF for the 2015 season.

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Florida Gators football odds and ends: injuries, departures and more

The Florida Gators (7-5) concluded their 2014 season on Saturday, earning a 28-20 win over the East Carolina Pirates in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, a victory which marked the end of the four-year Will Muschamp era in Gainesville, Florida.

While the Gators have since announced a coaching staff and are prepared to move on under new head coach Jim McElwain, there are still some odds and ends to wrap up from the end of the 2014 campaign.

Bowl game injuries

A number of Florida players were hurt during the Birmingham Bowl but most appeared to be relatively minor injuries. That was not the case for junior linebacker Antonio Morrison, the first player since Ahmad Black in 2010 to record more than 100 tackles in a single season.

Morrison, who was considering leaving for the 2015 NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, was on the field screaming in pain with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. He was carted off the field, and UF interim coach D.J. Durkin could offer nothing more than a general statement about Morrison’s injury after the game.

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