Florida Gators 2015 spring practice: Receivers stepping up, quarterbacks a work in progress

Head coach Jim McElwain took the field with the Florida Gators for the fourth and fifth time on Tuesday and Wednesday as the 2015 spring practice session rolled along. After both practices, he met with the media to discuss some of the early goings on with the team.

Opening statement (Tuesday)

“I was really happy with today. The way the guys adapted [to a canceled practice on Monday], the way they improved and then just the way they went ahead about their business. I thought we got a lot of really good situational work today, especially third down and mid-red area. When you take over, when you’re installing, [that is]one of the things that’s hard because there’s so much new learning getting in and really operating in the situational stuff. So that was good.

Opening statement (Wednesday)

“Practice today was the first day in full pads. We got some good live drills in. I thought 3rd and short was really good for both sides of the ball; offense did a good job of staying on the field, which was good. … It’s also great out there at practice seeing the former Gators that are coming back and taking a look. For me, that’s really what a program is all about, those guys that gave their all for this university, and for them to come back and support these current Gators, that’s something that’s pretty special. There’s been a lot of them and that’s something that’s exciting to see.”

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Another spring, another Florida Gators quarterback battle: Is it Will Grier’s turn?

It’s the same old story with the Florida Gators this spring. Since the departure of Tim Tebow in 2009, Florida has yet to find any semblance of consistency at the quarterback position and therefore has failed to enter a spring with a signal caller who possesses the full confidence of the coaching staff, his teammates and the fan base.

The history here is long and convoluted for having taken place in a five-year window, but it can be summed up as follows:

Cam Newton came and went as swiftly as a laptop flying out a dorm room window; all he wound up doing after transferring was becoming a Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. John Brantley got his shot but failed to deliver at the alma mater of his father and uncle. Despite major coaching obstacles, Jeff Driskel was given plenty of opportunities to succeed – which led to the transfer of Jacoby Brissett (who flashed in his first season as a starter at NC State) – though his eventual failure subsequently resulted in him moving on from Florida, too.

That’s four quarterbacks having come and gone from the Gators program including a five-star prospect and three four-star recruits: the top-rated signal caller in the nation (Driskel) one year, the second-best in another (Newton) and two more top-three quarterbacks (Brantley, Brissett) in the lot.

Yes, history has repeated itself at Florida as – for the third time – a pair of top-three quarterbacks of the same age will go head-to-head to fill a five-year void at the position.

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Florida Gators 2015 spring practice: Buy-in, communication a focus on day one and beyond

Head coach Jim McElwain took the field with the Florida Gators for the first time on Monday as the program opened its 2015 spring practice session. Following the day’s festivities, McElwain met with the media in a short session to discuss some of the early goings on with the team.

Opening statement

“Fun first day. Gotta say this: finally – it seems like it was taking forever to get out on the field and do what the heck we’re here to do, and that’s coach some ball. I like the way the guys have come together, the competition between the units, understanding that each and every play is an opportunity to get better. They probably took a lot more reps than they had been used to in the past and yet we need to increase our pace. It was pretty good for the first day. I felt good about that.

“Defensively, they’re obviously ahead; there’s a lot of carryover from what they’re doing. You can see how fast they were playing. You saw some things offensively from some guys, especially with not that many offensive linemen, guys in there battling. We have to do a lot better job in the run game, but overall you can see some communication going on and that’s really a start. Fun day, great to be out there, now we get to go watch video. That’s even better!”

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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 IV: Quarterback battle to be focal point of Florida Gators 2015 spring practice

For five days from March 5-9, OnlyGators.com has handed a guest editor role over to you, the loyal reader. This is the fourth of 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.

Florida’s quarterbacks will be springing forward in a different way come March 11 as second-year signal callers Treon Harris and Will Grier will once again do battle in spring practice. This time, instead of Harris and Grier fighting to become Jeff Driskel’s backup, they will be vying for the starting quarterback job, one that has yet to be filled by a game-changing player since Tim Tebow graduated in 2009.

Harris won that showdown in 2014, though Grier – who hoped to redshirt his freshman season in order to gain experience and seasoning – ultimately got his wish and was not broken up about the decision, a source told OnlyGators.com last season.

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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 QB Jeff Driskel transfers to Louisiana Tech, ends bowl game on field for Florida

Updated on Monday at 10:50 a.m.

Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel knew at the end of the regular season, with a new coaching staff taking over, that it would be his best bet to play the final year of his collegiate career elsewhere.

But he did not announce that decision immediately, choosing instead to remain with the teammates he has played beside for the last four years as they took on East Carolina in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl.

However, minutes before the game began, new head coach Jim McElwain officially let the cat out of the bag, telling gathered media members that Driskel had asked for his release, a request the coach did not think twice about granting.

“We all have choices,” he told multiple reporters in attendance at the bowl game, “and I’m not going to hold him hostage.”

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4 BITS: Driskel, Baker, Demps, Patton, Murphy

1 » Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel reportedly missed at least some portion of practice ahead of the Missouri game while dealing with a right ankle injury, which became more apparent last Saturday when his ankle was heavily taped before the contest. Driskel also hardly ran the ball in the game, just one week after carrying it 21 times. While it is currently unknown whether the still-imploding Driskel will get the start against Georgia on Nov. 1 – head coach Will Muschamp may address that very topic during his only media appearance of the week, the SEC teleconference on Wednesday – it looks like he is still missing some practice time.

OnlyGators.com reader Jeremy sent in the following photo, which he snapped Tuesday on his way to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for an event. In the photo below, freshmen Treon Harris and Will Grier (dressed in full pads) are leading the pack of quarterbacks out to the practice field while Driskel is bringing up the rear, holding his helmet but neither wearing pads nor football pants.

I was taking my kids to see Sesame Street Live at the O’Dome tonight. When we parked, we noticed the football team going to the practice field. The players were upbeat and giving my kids high-fives. Then the quarterbacks walked by. Treon Harris and Will Grier led the way and looked focused. Driskel was at the back. No pads, no pants. He looked like a player who wasn’t practicing. Muschamp walked by, smiled and looked like a beaten soul.

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