With big picture in mind, Gators believe sweating small stuff will lead to ring

Zach Abolverdi

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The theme for this year’s Florida football team is sweating the small stuff.

That shouldn’t be hard to do in this August heat, but Jim McElwain isn’t looking for a pile of drenched jerseys after every practice.

The third-year coach wants fall camp to be “uncomfortable” for the players.

“It’s going to be something where there’s going to be a lot of things stressed as simple as sweating every small detail,” McElwain said. “There is no detail small enough to be overlooked. It’s going to be hard, and that’ll be intentional.”

In McElwain’s eyes, his team can see the big picture — or as he likes to put it, they understand the why — and his expectations are understood by everyone in the building. However, that’s been the case for some time now.

In the spring of 2016, McElwain told SEC Country his players were beginning to buy in to his message and conduct themselves in championship fashion. And while last season resulted in another division title, that fell short of Florida’s ultimate goal.

“You gotta do every little thing perfect and the little things add up to something big,” UF defensive end Jordan Sherit said. “A lot of the stuff that Coach Mac talks about with the little stuff is in games when something doesn’t go your way. How are you going to respond? How are you going to react to that? That particularly is what differentiates the good teams from the great items.

“Once you get in the position we’re at — where you get back to Atlanta two years in a row — it starts to become, ‘OK, that’s not enough. Now we want to win in Atlanta.’ That’s our plan. We want to win that one and we want to go on past that to the playoff. That’s why you nitpick and look for the things you can do better.”

So what exactly does sweating the small stuff mean? For defensive end CeCe Jefferson, it’s not just about managing miscues and strengthening weaknesses.

“When you say sweat the small stuff, it means both the small negative stuff and the small positive stuff,” Jefferson said. “If you don’t sweat the small negative stuff, eventually it turns into a big problem. When you’re sweating the small positive stuff such as being on time to meetings or just doing what’s right, eventually it will help you out in the end. That’s what this team has taken away from what Coach Mac said about that.”

McElwain has been stressing the small stuff from the start. After his second game at UF, he ripped players for not having their ankles tapped before meetings earlier in the week.

Touchdowns and takeaways are outstanding — and prerequisites for successful seasons. Can you also make curfew or put in extra hours of film study? That’s what championship teams do.

“No doubt,” McElwain said. “A lot of times people go through life OK being above average. It’s not a bad thing. That means you’re probably maybe winning a little more than you’re losing. You’re probably putting more in your bank account than you are taking out. And there’s a lot of people that live comfortably and really good, long lives being just above average.

“In this game, being a Florida Gator, I don’t expect that. Above average is, hmm, it is what it is. I think the next step is understanding the courage it takes to really step above and put yourself out there in understanding, you know what, this is the next step. So what I’m looking for. I don’t know if we’ll find out. That’s the beautiful thing. But I know our guys understand.”