The Florida Gators will get back on the gridiron August 4, when Jim McElwain opens fall camp for his second season as head coach. As head coach McElwain’s hand touches everything that his team does, but he hasn’t been able to really work with his team and coach since spring camp.
The team will meet together August 3, before camp officially begins to start the 2016 season, but McElwain is of the belief that the fate of Florida’s season is already largely decided.
“I’m of the belief that this team’s record has already been shaped based on what they did from the day we got back from our bowl game a year ago,” McElwain told Paul Finebaum on Tuesday. “Not that there aren’t things that are going to go on in the season. However, I do believe your destiny is a little bit based on the work that you’ve put in when no one’s looking.”
NCAA rules restrict the amount of hands-on time McElwain has with his team. Even during the season the NCAA has a limit of hours that the he can interact with his players. That means that McElwain’s team will largely be shaped in the offseason. As the head coach, the buck stops at McElwain’s desk, but he’s learned to trust the people around him.
“I learned at Colorado State to hire great people and let them do their job,” McElwain told Finebaum. “Set the parameters and maybe it might not be exactly the way you and I might do it, but the end result is what you’re looking for. I’ve got some great guys that I trust within the organization and great people in the organization.”
One of the biggest influences on the team is the strength and conditioning coach. Under McElwain that man is Mike Kent. Kent joined Florida as the Director of Strength and Conditioning program after spending the previous three years at Colorado State, with McElwain, in that same role. Kent’s résumé is impressive. He was the strength and conditioning coordinator at Kansas State, coaching NFL Pro Bowlers Jordy Nelson and Josh Freeman. He was at also at Pittsburgh when Darrell Revis played for the Panthers.
The Gators remained largely injury free in 2015 and the football team has really taken to Kent’s new lifting and conditioning program.
“It’s more like an Olympic lifting style. I’ve gotten much stronger with it,” junior offensive lineman David Sharpe told Gator Country at SEC Media Days. “I’m able to move better with the running drills and things that he’s put in. I think it’s more serious. We have you get up early every day. It definitely teaches discipline.”
Kent made his impact quickly and earned so much trust and respect from the team that many of the Gators that entered the draft chose to come back to Gainesville to prepare for the NFL Combine. Jake McGee, who was nursing a hamstring injury, and Antonio Morrison both chose to come back to Gainesville to train with Kent rather than going to training facilities like most draftees.
“I’m training in Gainesville. Mike Kent, man, going to get me ready for fall camp, all of us,” Antonio Morrison said of Kent after Florida’s Pro Day. “Kent’s got the best program out there and he’s going to get us ready for the season.”
McElwain is entering just his fifth season as a head coach but learning how to hire smart people and allow them to do the job they were hired to do shows a veteran savvy.
“I’m of the belief that this team’s record has already been shaped based on what they did from the day we got back from our bowl game a year ago,” McElwain said on Finebaum. “Not that there aren’t things that are going to go on in the season. However, I do believe your destiny is a little bit based on the work that you’ve put in when no one’s looking.”