The second in a series previewing SEC football programs.
Every day as he drives to work, first-year Florida head coach Jim McElwain passes the statue of Steve Spurrier standing outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. “We’ll see how that goes”. If they can make significant strides on offense, they’ll have a shot to win what figures to be a balanced SEC East. Florida will have to travel to Missouri and LSU and theres that game in Jacksonville against Georgia.
McElwain didn’t hold back from complimenting his predecessor, Will Muschamp, whose team went 7-4 (4-4 SEC) last season.
Still, the former Deerfield Beach standout served as Florida’s lone offensive representative during Monday’s 2015 SEC Media Days because he’s a potential X factor in an offense desperate for one.
Asked Monday if he’s close to Spurrier, who’s in his 11th season as South Carolina’s coach, McElwain said they’ve only met briefly. That’s something that we look forward to and we embrace.
“I think part of the experience of being in this conference is realizing it doesn’t happen overnight”, McElwain said.
“I really appreciate the way he responded to not being the starter the last couple of years when he could have started for the majority of the teams”, Malzahn said regarding his quarterback.
In his four seasons, the Gators finished eighth, fifth, eighth and 15th nationally in total defense.
Based on what he saw, two-time All-SEC cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III predicts Powell will be a breakout star in 2015.
McElwain said his four-year tenure under Nick Saban at Alabama helped shape his offensive philosophy, but he evolved during his three more recent seasons at Colorado State, which included a 22-16 record over three seasons, including 10-2 in his final season.
Of course, I can’t forget about head coach Becky Burleigh. He didn’t come in and try to change all the stuff we knew. “That’s all we stayed in”. The DBs, we pick on him the most because he’s one of the best.
While Muschamp’s background is on defense, McElwain’s is on offense, where the Gators have struggled.
“That game was insane”, said Florida receiver Brandon Powell.
Sankey got things started, giving tribute to his predecessor Mike Slive while also showing the media that he is much more in tune with the times than the previous commissioner, whether it was plugging his new and improved Twitter handle, live tweeting his own speech or quoting Bob Dylan at the podium. “Sometimes you might say something in the heat of the moment that you don’t mean”. “You don’t know how it’s going to work out, but he has a chance to really do some things this season”. “I was kind of nervous walking in there, I knew I had to cover Odell (Beckham) and Jarvis”, Hargreaves said. “Will is definitely your normal quarterback who is strong-armed and can throw it anywhere across the field”. McElwain said he is excited about having those choices.
“It shows I’m going to be a big part of the offense”, he said. Hell be backed up by Birmingham Bowl MVP Adam Lane Jr. and true freshman Jordan Scarlett, who should also see some carries in the Gators offense this season.
“We’ve got to probably kind of reflect back a little bit to our National Football League roots and get that core seven or eight guys that can maybe swap from spots as we develop these young guys coming in”, McElwain said.
“Gutting out some of the dorms, the living arrangements, is something we tackled right away”.
Arguably, Floridas biggest challenge on offense will be their offensive line.
“Last year, we were in the shotgun the whole year”, Powell said. “Each one of us in this room, we’ve got freedom of choice”.
Johnson attracted a huge throng of reporters as he takes the reins of coach Gus Malzahn’s offense after two seasons as an understudy, but an equally popular topic of conversation was the arrival of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator.