Jim McElwain was quick to change the subject.
He was being asked a question about the newfound energy by his offensive line, but there was a different discussion the third-year Florida coach wanted to have Monday afternoon.
“Can we talk some hoops?” McElwain asked.
Specifically, Florida basketball.
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The fourth-seeded Gators hoops team under second-year coach Mike White heads to New York City later this week for the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament following a dominating opening weekend in Orlando. Florida opened the tournament with an 80-65 win over East Tennessee State on Thursday before drumming fifth-seeded Virginia 65-39 on Saturday to advance out of the opening weekend.
“Mike’s got our guys playing unselfish ball,” McElwain said. “Guys giving up themselves for the benefit of others. I love it. … They’re doing the little things.”
And McElwain, an avid basketball fan, has no qualms using the basketball team’s success as a way to spark his football team as it gets into the heart of its spring practice schedule.
He said his team, which is coming off back-to-back SEC East title-winning seasons but has yet to break through and fully show its potential, has an opportunity to learn how to work as a collective group by paying attention to the team that plays its home games across the street in the O’Connell Center and the coach who is leading them on a deep postseason run.
“It doesn’t matter what the sport because the things that help you be successful in any team sport are universal,” McElwain said. “Any examples of those that we can use, obviously we use.”
SHANNON’S DEFENSE TAKING FORM
Randy Shannon’s goal is simplicity.
Since being promoted from linebackers coach to Florida’s full-time defensive coordinator this spring, the former University of Miami head coach’s mission has been to streamline the defensive playbook and make it easier for a younger defensive group to digest in a month they have to work together during the spring practice schedule.
However, Shannon knows it will take some time before he will be able to put his stamp on the defense.
“We’re working at it,” Shannon said last week. “One thing about it, guys that are here are hungry. One thing when you have young guys and guys who are new to a system, they want to improve. They want to get better.”
And Florida will need those young guys to get better. The Gators lost eight starters on the defensive front from last season, including a pair of interior defensive linemen, a defense end, two linebackers, both starting outside cornerbacks and a safety.
With those departures, Shannon says, comes the opportunity for younger players to show they can compete with the rest of the pack.
“You’ve got to play for what you have on your team at this particular time,” Shannon said. “We’re trying to get everybody knowing strengths and weaknesses with certain calls, certain fronts, certain coverages, certain blitzes. If they know the strengths and weaknesses, then we can get better.”
BACKUP LINEMAN OFF THE TEAM
McElwain announced Monday that reserve offensive lineman Brandon Sandifer is no longer with the football program. Sandifer, a 6-3, 323-pound lineman who has three years of collegiate eligibility remaining, played in just two games last season after taking a redshirt in 2015.