The NCAA mandates that for the first two days of spring practice the players cannot be in pads. It’s an acclimation period designed to ease players back into the rigors of practice. Monday and Wednesday the Gators installed some new packages on offense and defense and did some football things but Wednesday was a step closer to the real thing, shoulder pads came on and the intensity was turned up.
“It was good to kind of hear some of the pads cracking a little bit, it was kind of fun,” head coach Jim McElwain said.
The Florida offense is in the process of a bigger makeover than Bruce Jenner and it will take some time for the offense to take shape and start executing the way that McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier need them to.
It’s the reason — or a big factor — as to why the team is taking a day off in-between practices to watch film and learn from the day before. Each player has an IPad with the playbook and has film loaded to it every day. It creates an easier situation for players to get extra work in. They can watch film laying in bed in their dorm room rather than having to be in the stadium.
“Those off days in between are huge, to actually sit down and evaluate, get your cut ups. Teach the repeated good things and then possibly show how we could do it better on another rep,” McElwain said. “And that’s been really, really good for our guys and kinda new in how we present the different plays and the different things that we’re doing.”
The offense is predictably behind the defense. Even an offense that was returning from the previous season would likely be behind the defense this early on but when you’re completely throwing out an old, ineffective offense and building something from the ground floor, it takes time and patience.
“We’re talking about execution every day but we’re starting with the basic premises of fundamentals,” Nussmeier said. “How we get in the right alignments, how do we take the right footwork, the right combination blocks, the right types of releases, the right type of drops. Where’s my eye and hand placement, foot placement? All those things that are very important. If you don’t have those, you’re not ever going to have execution. You’ve got to look, start with basics and build.”
It’s a process but something that Florida has to go through. “Anytime you install a new offense, there’s a large transition,” said Nussmeier. “The idea is to give them a lot of information, put them in a situation where they’re forced to think and try to play fast.”
The offense isn’t playing at the speed or tempo the staff would like and they’re not executing how the staff would want them to execute.
That’s ok for now. It’s early and there is a lot of information being thrown at them quickly. Florida will continue to separate practices with off days so that the team can get in the film room and learn from their mistakes as well as from their successes.
“What you’re trying to do is get the perfect picture. Let them see the perfect picture reinforced so the next time we can go back and get that again,” said Nussmeier. “That’s how you get the process of achieving where you want to get to.”
The offense is behind but they’re working hard to pick things up. It may not be as quickly as McElwain or the offensive staff would like but they trust the process. They have to have confidence in the process that has worked before and trust that it will work again.
Gator fans hope so, too.