University of Florida

Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain pleased with offense’s performance in scrimmage

Will Grier opened the Florida Gators’ first scrimmage with the No. 1 team Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Fellow QB Treon Harris also got snaps with the first team.
Will Grier opened the Florida Gators’ first scrimmage with the No. 1 team Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Fellow QB Treon Harris also got snaps with the first team. AP

Jim McElwain wasn’t eager to catch any shut-eye Thursday night.

Florida held its first preseason scrimmage in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Friday, and the Gators’ new coach had no idea what to expect.

“I’ll be quite honest with you, I kind of didn’t sleep last night thinking this could be a disaster,” he said. “And it actually turned out pretty darn good. I guess that’s comforting.”

It’s at least a start.

Florida’s scrimmage — closed to the media and public — was largely a success, according to McElwain and several players afterward. Although no stats were provided, star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III recorded an interception for a touchdown, and junior tailback Kelvin Taylor was the playmaker on offense.

“Taylor played really good [Friday],” McElwain said. “For the first time since we’ve been here, he didn’t just try to run everything to the sideline. He actually stuck his foot in the ground.”

With authority, too, apparently.

“I really like the way KT was running [Friday],” linebacker Jarrad Davis said. “He made sure everybody on defense felt him. The offensive line was really opening up some things, too.”

UF’s scrimmage included 109 total snaps, with overtime, two-minute drills and red-zone work sprinkled in, as the Gators continue to implement a new offensive scheme before their opener against New Mexico State on Sept. 5.

McElwain said the quarterbacks — Will Grier and Treon Harris — were fine and continue to compete, as the offense “clicked in spurts.”

The two quarterbacks split snaps with first- and second-team units, as Grier opened the scrimmage with No. 1s and led the unit to “a fast start.”

Harris was more effective with the No. 2s, according to McElwain.

“We’ve actually gotten a little better on layups,” he said on UF’s passing attack. “We actually made a couple of those. That’s a positive.

“I can’t tell you that we’re there by any stretch of the imagination.”

Drops were an issue, again, but McElwain remains more concerned with eliminating the offense’s general mental hurdles of doubt after years of futility under former coach Will Muschamp.

“There’s some offensive pieces here, especially with some of these young guys,” McElwain said. “And yet we’ve got to get over the hump from the psychological standpoint. It’s OK to care. It’s OK to compete. It’s OK to get out there and just let it all happen.

“It’s understanding you’re allowed to be great. You’re allowed to actually invest in yourself and go make plays at a million miles an hour. We’re starting to get a little bit of that, but we got a long ways to go.”

After years of failure on offense, McElwain is desperately trying to change the culture.

“At some point when you’re beat over the head so much you end up thinking that you’re not worthy. Everybody boos them,” he said.“You guys write it, so I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

“And yet at the same time when you hear it over and over and over then all of the sudden you think it’s true.

“Well, I’m telling you this, it doesn’t have to be that way. We go against a very good defense every day, and we’re moving the ball on them in spurts. To consistently be great, you got to be able to step off and say I’m going to work my tail off on every single snap.”

Friday’s scrimmage was a start.

TWO PLAYERS INJURED

Two players sustained minor injuries during Friday’s scrimmage.

Backup wideout Raphael Andrades, a redshirt junior, “pulled something in the back of his leg,” according to McElwain. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Matt Rolin also was injured.

▪ McElwain said leg injuries sustained earlier this week to sophomore wideout C.J. Worton and backup offensive guard Travaris Dorsey would not require surgery.

▪ Hargreaves worked as UF’s first-team punt returner during Friday’s scrimmage. Sophomore wideout Brandon Powell spent the scrimmage as the No. 1 kickoff returner. … Florida’s indoor practice facility is scheduled for completion sometime next week (target date: Aug. 22-24), and McElwain said the team would utilize the facility every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday during a normal game week.

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