The Florida Gators will hold their first scrimmage on Friday night under the lights at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Jim McElwain has scheduled the scrimmage to run between 90 and 110 plays, with “jobs on the line” for some veteran and younger players.
“The scrimmage part today, two-fold, it’s something we talk about with the young guys, this is their opportunity to make the team,” McElwain said Friday afternoon. “Be it on special teams, which they will be stressed against the 1s, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where they and how they compete to go get a job.”
The Gators have been through seven practices and a walk through on Friday morning in preparation for Friday night’s scrimmage. Jim McElwain knows that this will be the first time some of his players have had a chance to play in the Swamp and being able to handle that emotion is something the coaching staff will look at.
“The big stress on this first scrimmage is see those guys who are ready, willing, able, all that kind of stuff and more than that, their first opportunity to play in The Swamp,” he said. “Even in a sterile environment, there’s something pretty special about that and to see those guys even kind of perk up when they come out of that tunnel for the first time ever playing in The Swamp, I’m excited to see the environment, how they handle that piece of it.”
Constructing how the scrimmage flows is complex. McElwain and the coaches have only had seven practices to see their guys, install offensive and defensive packages and have really only begun to figure the team out. The first scrimmage won’t make or break a team, but it’s an important tool for coaches and players alike. Getting the right mix or work on overtime, redzone drills, live hitting, even down to the details of procedural things like substitutions and clock management needs to be considered.
“First of all, play the players. Who do we know, who we need to see in what areas. Two, create as many game-like substitution periods where everybody is off of the field, you know, officials throwing penalties, from sideline management to illegal formation – whatever it is, illegal substitution, that kind of stuff,” McElwain said. “Putting in the special teams interspersed as we’re trying to create as many of those type of things so the guys got to focus on what is going on, not just “here, you get six reps,” and then the next guys go, but actually the flow of the game. What we do from the exact situation piece.”
McElwain also is looking for separation at quarterback. He mentioned looking at how “the three” (Malik Zaire, Feleipe Franks and Luke Del Rio) moved the offense as something that will go a long way towards naming a starter.
“The quarterbacks will roll, the three of them will roll in the move-the-field stuff kind of at the same pace, or same rep count. Some of that is the team’s got to move when you’re in there. So a guy with less rep count means he didn’t move the team. So I think when you look at it from that standpoint, that kind of shows you what’s going on,” said McElwain. “As you know, it’s how does the team really elevate themselves around you? Also, how do you move a team that maybe isn’t as equipped to roll against whoever they’re going against. That (applies) as well in play-calling, but more than that, how the quarterback handles that.”
Florida’s scrimmage is closed to the media and the public. Jim McElwain will meet with the media on Monday afternoon for the first time following the scrimmage Friday.