GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain appeared to be in a much better mood Monday.
He met with the media at the end of last week and ripped his team for an “unacceptable” practice on Thursday. The Gators apparently got the message and responded in Friday’s scrimmage.
“I saw some really good things from some guys as they fought through,” McElwain said. “We’re moving the ball pretty well. That’s what makes me kind of really excited, you know. Wasn’t real happy the last time we visited kind of with the energy of a heated practice.”
McElwain said his players followed up Friday’s scrimmage with the sharp practices on Sunday and Monday. He was encouraged by the consistency in their performance.
“I thought today they did a heck of a job coming out with the right mindset,” McElwain said. “At the beginning of (camp) … I said we’re going to know a lot about this football team when we get to Practice 13.
“And last night, the energy that those guys practiced with, and then to back it up. That’s really the thing right now, is we’ve got to be consistent enough to back those practices up. I thought for the most part we did today.”
Still no separation at QB
McElwain said last week he would like to name a starting quarterback after the team’s second scrimmage this coming Friday.
That’s not set in stone, however, and McElwain still needs to see more before he chooses between Austin Appleby and Luke Del Rio.
“I thought both quarterbacks, both Austin and Luke, had their moments and had some other moments that we need to get cleaned up a little bit,” McElwain said. “No, I haven’t named a starter yet.”
“I don’t know when it happens. I guarantee you I will let you guys know. I promise. I’m not going to keep it a secret.”
McElwain expanded on what stood out about each signal caller in the previous scrimmage.
“I really liked Luke in the red area, he was really good,” McElwain said. “He did take a two-minute drive and stuck it in the end zone. We didn’t get points in the two-minute before the half, but we got points at the end of the game when we needed them.
“I thought Austin, just the team moved (up) the field, especially our (run-pass option) stuff. I thought he handled that better during the play of the scrimmage. Both of them had their moments.”
Leaders emerging on offense
Appleby and Del Rio have both had a hand in leading the offensive unit during fall camp, but McElwain said other players are beginning to step up as well.
He singled out offensive tackle David Sharpe as well as slot receivers Brandon Powell and Dre Massey for their play in practice.
“I’ve challenged him and … I’ll tell you what, David Sharpe; I saw some really good (things),” McElwain said. “Just pushing himself and pushing the guys next to him. … Brandon Powell when he’s in there is a guy that just carries a little confidence with those guys and can make some guys miss.
“Going back to the scrimmage, a guy that’s kind of really developing for us and you’ll see touching the ball in a lot of different ways will be Dre Massey. Really happy with how far he has come since spring and really having a good feel for what we’re doing.”
McElwain explains Rolin’s departure
Redshirt junior linebacker Matt Rolin has left the team after a difficult three-year career.
He was sidelined his first two seasons recovering from knee surgeries and missed 10 games in 2015 with a herniated disc.
“He just kind of lost the love of the game,” McElwain said of Rolin. “He’s going to stay and graduate, should be done actually this semester if he chooses to use his time right. And that’s kind of the goal for him. And for the right reasons.
“He wasn’t really into it. And yet, at the same time he saw he was taking reps from some of the young guys that have been showing some promise. So for him and the injuries he’s had, he’s just chosen that maybe there’s something else in his life.”
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.