The Florida Gators had a quiet offseason up until this week, when a pair of freshmen receivers were arrested Monday for a BB gun incident.
Unfortunately for coach Jim McElwain, his ESPN Car Wash was tainted Tuesday by having to repeatedly address what happened.
“I spend a day at ESPN talking about that rather than the fact that we were SEC East champions,” McElwain said of the Paul Finebaum Show.
McElwain said Tuesday that Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells “will be dealt with,” but he also used the discussion to highlight the importance of player conduct and preparation in the offseason.
“I’m of the belief that this team’s record is already been shaped based on what they did from the day we got back from our bowl game,” McElwain said. “Not that there aren’t things that are going to go on during the season. However, I do believe your destiny is a little bit based on the work that you put in when no one’s looking.
“It’s really the truth. The idea that I can flip a switch and go — no. We play Week 1, but guess what? We’ve already been working towards that. … I don’t have a lot of mottos and that kind of stuff. I believe you work hard, you do your job and you do it to your fullest. If you do that on a daily basis, you’ve got an opportunity to be successful.”
The key to success is not just the players’ work ethic in the weight room or at practice, but their behavior and decision-making off the field — especially during the offseason when they have a lot of free time on their hands.
Renowned motivational speaker Eric Thomas spoke to the Florida football team Tuesday.
Phenomenal session. S/O to the Gators coaching staff for the opportunity to help the guys development as men today! pic.twitter.com/Jw7VWLpTWH
— Eric Thomas (@Ericthomasbtc) July 19, 2016
“Not only do we have our mental conditioning coaches, but also the speakers that we bring in on a consistent basis,” McElwain said. “It’s actually something that we do on a weekly basis, even before we come back. We’ve got wonderful people in the how-you-think department (to help with) how you choose to react to situations and how you deal with situations.
“Jeremy (Foley), our athletic director, is fantastic about seeing the value of the mental conditioning piece. It’s not a line item that a lot of people have in their budget. It’s OK to go buy a new weight machine because you can touch that. It’s tangible. Yet, the most important thing is the intangible way in how we affect our players.”
McElwain said he has a “pretty good handle” on what kind of team he’ll have in the fall by the way his players handle themselves during summer break. The Gators report for training camp on Aug. 3.
“I think teams are made over the offseason,” McElwain said. “Now, sometimes you catch fire or somebody steps up. This is something set in stone. But ultimately, the work that was put in, how your locker room has come together in that time … when you see the unity that comes from that, now you know you got a chance.
“We’ve had a great summer. Since we’ve been there and how we’ve handled discipline, knock on wood, we haven’t had a lot of incidents. And that’s been really good.”
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.