JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jim McElwain hasn’t gone grey yet, but last spring probably sped up the process.
His first 15 practices as Florida’s head coach were anything but smooth. The lack of scholarship offensive linemen (just six) limited the amount of position and team drills and kept the Gators from having a traditional spring game.
They also had to install new schemes on both sides of the ball, which wasn’t a pretty sight for McElwain.
“I’m probably still cringing from it,” he said Tuesday at the Gator Club of Jacksonville.
“I really felt of those 15 full practices that we had,” McElwain said, “there was probably a practice and a half where I’d say, ‘Ugh, I’m not quite sure we got better today.’ And yet, that’s a big step from the year before.
“You can see the difference (now), you really can. That’s the fun part as a coach. It’s good to see the guys bouncing around from drill to drill and kind of understanding the why in what they’re doing.”
Unlike newly elected NBA Hall of Fame member Allen Iverson, McElwain is big on practice. After ripping his team’s “embarrassing” effort in the East Carolina game last season, McElwain said he could tell a bad performance was coming earlier in the week.
“I’m going to tell you what. It started Monday when 30-plus guys didn’t have their ankles taped for the first meeting. 30-plus,” McElwain said in his postgame presser. “Before I got here, there were a lot more, OK. But that’s unacceptable. You have to come prepared. That was a look into maybe what was going on this week.”
Those issues no longer plague the Florida football team. Ankles are taped, playbooks have been studied and players are locked in when they show up to practice.
“Our team understands more than anything how to go about your daily business and your responsibility as a player,” McElwain said Tuesday. “Just to preparing for a meeting, getting ready to go to practice, the expectation of the workload in the weight room and those type of things. It’s been really fun to see how they’ve accepted that challenge and are really taking it to heart.
“It’s not just exclusive to Gator football. It’s really for everybody. How you wake up every day and how you approach it determines whether you’re going to get better or get worse. You’re never going to stay the same. That understanding and that mindset has a lot to do with how you enter the building.”