The first day of fall camp isn’t even finished but Jim McElwain can’t help his smile. Florida opted to split up the team into veterans and new guys for the first day of camp with the younger players going first.
His big takeaway from that first session?
“You know what,” McElwain said. “We did pretty darned good in recruiting, guys.”
“You know when you’re like a kid at Christmas and you kind of sneak out of your bedroom and maybe look at a couple presents and wonder what they are,” McElwain said. “Seeing those guys for the first time it is a little bit like Christmas. No, I didn’t get a lump of coal in my stocking either.”
Christmas came early for McElwain and the Gators coaching staff in the form 22 new freshmen that took the field in Orange and Blue for the first time on Thursday. The Gators made a late push on National Signing Day to end up with a top-10 ranked class and they’re going to need those young players to make an impact.
The idea behind splitting the team up for the first day was geared to take some pressure off of those new guys, as well as provide an environment where they would feel more comfortable and be able to get more one-on-one attention.
“Teach them the drills and the expectation of how the drill should be run, kind of where the locations are on the field. It sort of forces them to jump in there and go. I think it more than anything kind of eases them in to now when we come together, they’re not like ‘oof. I’m not sure I signed up for this.’ ”
The first day was void of pads but the large group of freshmen defensive backs impressed McElwain early. The group won’t have time to ease into things.
With the loss of Marcell Harris they’ll be forced to play early and often.
“I would expect somebody that we recruit at the university of Florida to have that competitive fire to say, ‘you know what, I’m here to go play.’ I like that, and yes, we’ve never said, ‘yes you’re starting.’ If somebody’s wooed by that, I don’t know how any coach could tell someone that. You don’t know. You just don’t know. And yet, the flipside is we talked a little bit yesterday about competition breeding excellence. If they know they have an opportunity they’re going to push just that much harder.”
Marco Wilson worked inside at nickel while Brad Stewart fell into a group with the safeties.
Another question heading into fall would be where would lineman TJ Slaton play? He played offensive and defensive line at American Heritage High School. McElwain confirmed that Slaton will play defense for the Gators.
“I don’t see him playing nickel or corner, but there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be inside,” joked McElwain.
The Gators will be back on the practice field as a whole team tomorrow. The NCAA mandates that the first two practices be without pads, followed by two more practices in just shoulder pads and helmets before practice can begin in full pads.