Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain spoke to the media Wednesday afternoon for UF Football Media Day and touched on a few topics that have been surrounding the program this summer.
The Gators have injuries, a QB battle and a young secondary to work through this fall and still be prepared for the 2017 season that kicks off September 2nd in Dallas. There are also the looming issues regarding the arrest of star WR Antonio Callaway and the eligibility of incoming WR James Robinson.
Coach Mac stressed the difficulty of fall camp and is excited for the competition at a number of different position groups.
McElwain: ‘This camp will be uncomfortable for our guys. No detail will be too small.’ He wants uncomfortable to become comfortable. #Gators— Chris Harry (@GatorsChris) August 2, 2017
For the third straight year as the Head Coach, McElwain will begin fall camp with a QB battle and for the second consecutive year, it involves a graduate transfer. Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire joined an already crowded depth chart this summer that includes Feleipe Franks, Luke Del Rio, Kyle Trask and Kadarius Toney.
When asked about the current status of the position and whether there was a leader to this point, McElwain simply stated, “It’s even”.
With this being the first chance the staff has to interact with Zaire on the field, it is understandable that McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will take their time evaluating fall camp and the position battle that ensues.
He reiterated that there is no timetable for a decision and, similar to 2015 with Harris and Grier, this battle could stretch into the season. It is expected that the coaches will make a decision before the matchup with Michigan, but I would not be surprised if they do not name a starter until the week of the game.
“We’ll see. I haven’t put a deadline on it. We’ll see where it goes.” — Mac on QB race, timing of decision— Scott Carter (@GatorsScott) August 2, 2017
Coach McElwain touched on a few injury questions and gave a report of those missing camp and those that are “limited”. There aren’t any surprises on this list, but losing Jordan Sherit for any period of time could be an issue for a defensive line that is young and talented, but lacks real starting experience. Losing starting Safety Marcell Harris for the rest of the year is a major blow, but the Gators plan to use fall camp to figure out where to put all of the highly-touted defensive backs around Nick Washington, Duke Dawson and Chauncey Gardner Jr.
McElwain said as of today, Gardner would start at corner leaving the other safety position open to one of the freshmen. The secondary and the defensive line are position groups that would be affected drastically by a serious injury and both have already taken a hit. The full report is below:
INJURY REPORT - OUT— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) August 2, 2017
Marcell Harris (Achilles)
Sherit - knee
Riles - knee
Antonio Callaway and James Robinson
Florida standout WR Antonio Callaway was arrested May 13th for possession of marijuana and Coach McElwain has kept the status close to the vest this summer. At SEC Media days in Hoover last month, he briefly touched on the subject with vanilla responses, but did say that Callaway was “doing the things he needed to do” to get back on the field.
In Hoover, McElwain did not allude to a time for his return to the field or if there would be a suspension. Today when asked about suspensions for the Michigan game, he said “as of now, all hands on deck” leading us to believe that Callaway has fulfilled his obligations to the coaching staff and the team this summer and is not expected to miss any time on the field to start 2017.
If so, this is welcome news for the Gators who need all weapons at their disposal come September 2nd.
McElwain says, as of now, "all hands on deck" for the first game (RE: suspensions)— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) August 2, 2017
Asked about the eligibility status of 4-star WR from Lakeland, James Robinson, McElwain said the administration is “still waiting on some things to clear up” and that he will “let you know as soon as that happens.”.
Having Robinson on campus for fall camp would be a big boost for the Gator offense as it prepares to establish a deep-threat arsenal fans haven’t seen since Caldwell, Cooper and Murphy roamed the sidelines in Gainesville.
Robinson is not projected to be a starter on offense as he learns behind starters Callaway and Cleveland, but could prove to be a spark for the Gators in the future. Fall classes begin at UF on August 21st and if the NCAA eligibility issues are not cleared up in time to enroll, Robinson may be forced to go the junior college route.
Mac says they're still waiting on some things to clear up on James Robinson.— Andrew Spivey (@AndrewSpiveyGC) August 2, 2017
“We’re Pretty Darn Good”
Overall, Coach McElwain was the usual upbeat, hokey character Gators have come to know, but standing at the podium today he seemed to have some extra swagger when giving his answers to the gathered media. This could be because he is a football coach and it is the first day of practice. Or it could be a look inside how confident the Gators are heading into the 2017 season.
McElwain has proven he is a winner taking teams with subpar QB play to back-to-back SEC Championship games. Having three recruiting classes under his belt, a secure coaching staff and six options at QB seems to bring out a more confident Head Coach and you can see his excitement for the coming year.
When asked about the overall state of the program, Coach Mac smiled as he said “We’re more than OK. We’re pretty darn good.”
He is right to be excited... Gator Football is only 30 days away.
McElwain on the state of the program: "I do know this: We're OK. We're more than OK. We're pretty darn good." #Gators— Jordan McPherson (@J_McPherson1126) August 2, 2017
View the entirety of Florida Football Media Day with Coach Jim McElwain below: