High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectations.”
- Jack Kinder, author
Jim McElwain addressed the expectations and the pressure that comes with coaching the Florida Gators in his very first press conference.
“Pressure is awesome. That’s why we do this. The one thing I love is pressure. Now, I never look at it as feeling the pressure. I always look at it as applying the pressure,” he said. “I’m excited about that part of it. You know what, if there’s no pressure, why wake up in the morning, right? That’s really what drives me anyway.”
As the head coach the buck stops on McElwain’s desk. Wins and losses are tagged on to the end of his name but he has a lot of rope as a new head coach, especially after the disastrous two seasons the Gators just went through. He’s starting from scratch on offense. The Gators have as many offensive linemen as a flag football team and have been fruitlessly searching for playmakers when they recruit in a state filled with them.
The fans know what Mac was given on offense and they’ll be patient with him. The expectations for the offense are tempered because McElwain and Doug Nussmeier are trying to put together a puzzle that’s wet, upside down and missing pieces.
New defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will not be afforded that same grace period. Florida’s defense is loaded up front and in the secondary. There is a returning All-American and All-SEC talent throughout the defense. He has an embarrassment of riches that makes him smile when asked about how much talent he gets to coach each day.
“This whole group is fun to be around,” he said with a chuckle when asked if this was a dream scenario to be around.
Numerous times this spring McElwain has noted that the defense is “obviously” ahead of the offense. Florida’s secondary is so talented that the receivers on the roster are no match for them in practice and you have to wonder if they’re even getting challenged on a daily basis.
The expectations for the defense don’t get higher. Florida’s offense is going to take time to grow and the defense — like it has the past four years — will have to throw the offense on their back and carry the weight without limping.
Florida doesn’t need to have one of the best defenses in the SEC, they need to have one of the best defenses in the country. Those are the outside expectations and the coaching staff feels that pressure on a daily basis. Their main defense is that, in just a few short months, they’ve grown close. The coaching staff has meshed and gelled quickly.
“[Randy Shannon], coach Rumph, coach Callahan, that room that we have right now, we’re very close and I think the kids can sense that,” Collins said. “How much we care for each other, how much we like each other when we interact on the practice field or when we interact in front of the guys, you can’t fake it.”
The coaching staff has banded together. They’re well-equipped but that won’t turn the heat down on what they’re expected to and what they need to do. The coaching staff is embracing the challenge. Like McElwain said, without pressure, why get up in the morning?
“The expectations are fine with me,” said Collins. “We have high expectations in our room. We want to be one of the best defenses in the country.”