2015 SEC Media Days: Gators getting healthy, but Florida still has a long way to go

Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain, senior defensive end Jonathan Bullard, junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and sophomore wide receiver Brandon Powell represented the team on Monday by participating in the 2015 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Below are highlights primarily from McElwain’s sessions with the media.

Slowly but surely

The most positive development for Florida on Monday came when McElwain provided an overall status update for multiple players that sat out spring practice with a variety of injuries.

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McElwain, White, Foley make few waves as Florida Gators reps at 2015 SEC spring meetings

A tumultuous offseason for Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley, one in which he had to hire new head coaches in his two top revenue-producing sports of football and basketball, did not carry over to the Southeastern Conference spring meetings this week where Foley and his new coaches were some of the least news-making people in attendance at the annual event.

Though the meetings will go on for two more days with new Florida president Kent Fuchs set to be in attendance, OnlyGators.com has decided to wrap up the first two days of the proceedings and provide a detailed look at five of the biggest topics actually discussed by the Gators’ representatives in Destin, Florida.

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Florida Gators 2015 Orange & Blue Debut Preview: start time, TV schedule, live stream, who to watch

OnlyGators.com will offer a complete recap of the 2015 Orange & Blue Debut later Saturday evening following its tape-delayed replay on the SEC Network. More information below.

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather: Cloudy, 82 degrees, winds west/south-west at 7-8 mph
Time: 12:30 p.m. (EDT)

Live online/mobile (12:30 p.m.): SEC Network +
Live TV (12:30 p.m.): SEC Network alternate (“whip-around” coverage)
TV (9:00 p.m. tape delay): SEC Network
SiriusXM: None | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Live updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

EXPANDED VIEWING INFORMATION

Television:
Florida’s 2015 spring game will not air live in its entirety on television but rather on tape delay at 9 p.m. on SEC Network. Live “whip-around” coverage will be available on the SEC Network‘s alternate channel (where available) beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Online:
While the game is not being offered live on television, you can stream it live online (and via your mobile device) via SEC Network +. The game may be immediately available for replay via SEC Network + at the conclusion of the spring game.

EVENT FORMAT

» Florida will field an orange team and a blue team, which will square off over four 12-minute quarters and an un-timed overtime.

» Between each half, the Gators will hold a 12-minute halftime.

» There will also be a running clock for the final two minutes of the second and fourth quarters, likely with some additional kicking and special teams work.

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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.

Submit your requests via e-mail, Twitter or this comment section.

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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Florida LBs Neiron Ball, Jarrad Davis out for the season; Gators get two back for EKU

Saturday’s loss to South Carolina not only marked the end of the road for Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp but also the end of the season for two of his linebackers as redshirt senior Neiron Ball and sophomore Jarrad Davis have been ruled out for the rest of 2014 with knee injuries.

Ball and Davis each underwent surgery Monday for a torn meniscus suffered in last weekend’s game, though Ball also required microfracture surgery. Both players will be out for approximately four months with the first six weeks of Ball’s recovery requiring him not to put any weight on his knee.

“I’m extremely disappointed for both of those guys and both were having great years,” said Muschamp on Monday. “Certainly get those guys rehabbed as quickly as possible.”

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Florida hopes to find replacement for S Keanu Neal, D.J. Durkin talks Gators defensive players

Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday, a few days before his team travels to Nashville, Tennessee, to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Durkin evaluated a number of players and discussed how the Gators can improve defensively before their next game.

WANTED: STARTING SAFETY

With sophomore Keanu Neal sidelined for an unknown length of time due to a high-ankle sprain, Florida is searching for his replacement. Twice this week, coaches failed to name one player as Neal’s stand-in, instead choosing to discuss four different players that could line up to senior Jabari Gorman on Saturday.

“Keanu is a great football player; he has played really well for us. He’s productive, flies around and makes a lot of plays. Any time a guy goes down, it’s part of the game and the next guy has to step up and there can’t be a drop off in production. I think we’ll be fine,” said Durkin.

“Marcus Maye has played a bunch for us; Jabari Gorman played his best game since he has been here last week. Those guys combined with Marcell [Harris], Nick Washington and Duke Dawson, there’s a whole group of guys getting reps now and we’ll keep working them through the week to see where we’re at.”

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11/3: Two Florida starters out for Vanderbilt, Muschamp provides other updates on Gators

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (4-3, 3-3 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team looks to rebound from a signature win while preparing for the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-6, 0-5 SEC) on Saturday evening in Nashville, Tennessee.

HOUSEKEEPING

» The Southeastern Conference announced Monday that the Florida-South Carolina game on Saturday, Nov. 15 will be played at noon and air live nationally on the SEC Network. The game is already the Gators’ sixth of 10 scheduled contests to be broadcast by the network this season, and UF will likely have a seventh before the year is out as it hosts Eastern Kentucky the next weekend.

» Redshirt seniors center Max Garcia and wide receiver Michael McNeely were both honored with league awards on Monday. Garcia was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week, and McNeely earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his fake field goal touchdown against Georgia.

INJURY UPDATES

Florida will be without two starters this week at Vanderbilt as sophomore safety Keanu Neal (high-ankle sprain) and senior right guard Trenton Brown (knee) have already been ruled out for the game.

Neal and Brown, who was diagnosed with a bone bruise, will both be reevaluated next Monday after a full week of rest. The former will be replaced by a combination of players led by redshirt sophomore Marcus Maye, while the latter will see redshirt junior Tyler Moore take his place.

Also potentially out Saturday is freshman defensive lineman Gerald Willis, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in practice and did not make the trip to Jacksonville, Florida. Willis is currently questionable to play but will be reevaluated by the trainers on Wednesday.

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