GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida head coach Jim McElwain held his first press conference of the week Monday to reflect once more on the season opener, update some major injury matters and look ahead to the Gators’ SEC opener this weekend against Kentucky.
Here were the highlights.
- “First and foremost, it’s great to come in here obviously after a win. In a game that I felt like defensively we did a great job of shutting them down, except for whatever they had, 189 yards. And 107 of those came on three plays, which when you look at this Kentucky game, they have about eight or nine plays over 30 yards offensively, so obviously the the explosive plays we’ve got to do a great job of getting off the field and shutting down there. The one drive they scored we hurt ourselves with 35 yards worth of penalties, and yet there’s things we can learn from.”
- “Offensively, I wanted to get Eddy some shots at some field goals, but I’d rather have touchdowns when we’re down in the (red zone). So we’ve got to do that. We hurt ourselves on three drives there on unforced errors. So there’s some things there we need to work on, and yet UMass came in and did exactly what you’re supposed to do. They played slow, they bled the clock, they did a pretty good job of nickel and diming some first downs and staying on the field and keeping us off the field.”
- “There was some good, there was some ugly, there was some bad, and yet the important part is, from Gator Walk on that stadium was electric. My hat’s off to the students who showed up and to our Gators fans who showed up on a questionable rainy night to watch the Gators.”
- On playing Kentucky this Saturday: “Against a team that is hurting a little bit. Obviously they had the 25-point lead. They only had the ball 15 times, I think it was, in the second half. Kentucky was going up and down the field and stopped themselves a couple times. They’re going to come in here with obviously with that mentality where the last time they played in this stadium they probably felt they could have won the ballgame. … We have to grow up and grow up soon and I’m looking forward to that transformation as we go into this ballgame”
- On Dre Massey’s injury: “Big loss that we’re going to need some guys to step up, obviously Dre Massey hurt his leg and he’ll be out. He’ll get that operated on when the swelling goes down and he’ll be out for the year.” McElwain said Dre hurt his knee on the opening kickoff and played the entire first half. “That shows you his toughness and his want to do what he can for this football team.”
- Linebacker Daniel McMillian has a badly injured ankle as well. “I think that speaks for those two guys’ character, their want and a little bit about this football team.”
- McElwain said LB Alex Anzalone had the most “production points” on defense.
- McElwain said Khairi Clark was Florida’s player of the game on defense, even if the stats didn’t show it.
- On offense, Brandon Powell “the big plays he made energized our team.” He also said, “Jordan Scarlett, I think showed up a little bit.”
- McElwain credited Ahmad Fulwood’s contributions on special teams.”
- On players returning: WR C.J. Worton “I think, we’ll see. Time will tell on that. And both the freshman receivers (Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells) will be back in the mix this week. They obviously didn’t get much practice time at all, but hopefully the injuries they had, they’re ready to go.”
- On QB Luke Del Rio: “Luke did all right. There were probably like six throws I know he’d like back. There were like four drops. But I think he was good at not taking sacks. He threw it to our colored jersey and was pretty efficient, and for a first start he literally got his feet wet, but I thought played pretty darn good.”
- On the OL: “My biggest piece there is the energy and body language with which they get to the line of scrimmage, make the call and let’s go. They were slow with that.” No changes to the OL plan this week.
- On OC Doug Nussmeier being on the field this year: “His working, I think, with the quarterbacks and really the whole offense between series is something he felt comfortable with and I thought it worked out pretty good.”
- On RB Jordan Scarlett separating himself: “No, in some of the (run-pass options) those guys would have gotten more runs, but they were giving you the stuff on the outside, which we made some hay with. I think he’s doing a really good job and so are those other guys. I think Cronkrite did a really good job as well, and Mark had a couple drops obviously, but he’s a guy we have to get the ball to.”
- On replacing Massey: “It’s no secret we had some packages for Dre. Cronkrite picked that up a little bit. We only got into a wildcat package one time. Moving forward this week, we’ll get somebody else in there. I think they did a great job, it’s the beauty of teaching them different positions and teaching them different concepts, so we were able to move some guys around. A lot of that will hinge this week on the health of the guys we talked about earlier to see where that will go.”
- On nickelback Duke Dawson: “He had a shoulder or a chicken wing that was a little loose, but according to the training report today, limited, contact reps okay. So it sounds like he’s okay.”
- On Brandon Powell: “The first three or four games last year this guy made plays, right, and then he got banged up. He’s definitely an explosive playmaker, he’s a guy that we need to continue to make those plays, and we’ve got to get him the ball.”
- On the 29-straight wins over Kentucky: “Well it’s there. The biggest piece to me is, that was done by teams before. As I told them last year, they had a chance going into The Swamp. There was a questionable piece to that — I don’t know which way it went, I wasn’t here — and last year we had to play our tails off against them. The streak thing, it’s something to write about, but … right now it’s 0-0. These teams haven’t played.”
- On Jalen Tabor and C’yontai Lewis returning from suspension: “I’m just excited for them to come back and play. In all cases, when you take something away from somebody that’s really important, you hope they’ve learned from their actions. … I expect great play from both of them and I’m excited to have them back.”
- McElwain clarifies McMillian has a high-ankle sprain.
- He suggested the Gators could go with multiple RBs on the field more often now with Massey out.
Ryan Young is a Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.