University of Florida

Jim McElwain happy with Florida Gators’ scrimmage

Florida head football coach Jim McElwain, center, answers questions from reporters during Florida's NFL Pro Day in Gainesville, Fla., Tuesday, March 22, 2016.
Florida head football coach Jim McElwain, center, answers questions from reporters during Florida's NFL Pro Day in Gainesville, Fla., Tuesday, March 22, 2016. AP

Florida scrimmaged for the first time this spring last Thursday and, overall, coach Jim McElwain walked away pleased.

The Gators’ coach thought both sides of the ball “had their moments,” with the offense performing well early in the scrimmage while the defense dominated third downs and red-zone work.

“Felt really good about the scrimmage,” McElwain said. “Got a lot of guys some valuable reps, especially some of the young guys.”

Florida ran roughly 117 plays, not including special teams reps.

The Gataors’ four-headed quarterback battle continues, as the veterans (Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby) took the lion’s share of snaps with the first-team offense. Both early enrollees (Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks) had opportunities, too, though.

“I thought all the quarterbacks had their moments, good and bad,” McElwain said. “And yet, I think the consistency in which they played was pretty darn good. Both of the young guys really threw the ball well. I was impressed with how they handled a lot of situations.”

McElwain specifically was happy with how the receivers and running backs caught the ball, highlighting explosive plays by junior college tailback Mark Thompson and little-used wideouts Alvin Bailey and Ryan Sousa.

Defensively, Florida forced three turnovers, including a takeaway on the goal line by early enrollee safety Chauncey Gardner during a red-zone rep.

UF’s defense also frequently won on third down, with McElwain saying, “I thought [the defense] handled those really well.”

The Gators will scrimmage again Friday, one week before their spring game on April 8.

INJURY UPDATE

All-SEC cornerback Jalen Tabor (hamstring), sophomore defensive end CeCe Jefferson and sophomore tailback Jordan Scarlett (leg) sat out Thursday’s scrimmage, but all three players returned to practice Monday.

Meanwhile, starting center Cam Dillard (broken nose) and receivers Dre Massey (leg) and Ahmad Fulwood (leg) remain sidelined.

Defensive back Duke Dawson sustained a thumb injury in the scrimmage but was able to return to action.

Defensive end Thomas Holley, who lost more than 60 pounds in the offseason in an effort to allow his chronic hip injury to heal, reaggravated his hip and his football future is unknown.

MCELWAIN ON RAISE

Nearly 30 years ago, McElwain earned $4,723 a year in his first coaching job at Eastern Washington.

“Still have the contract,” he said, chuckling.

To make ends meet, Florida’s second-year coach also “taught classes, tended bar and worked at JCPenney.”

“I’ve come a ways,” he said.

McElwain joined the $4 million coaching club in February, as Florida announced his $750,000 raise on Friday.

The Gators’ coach now earns $4.25 million annually, becoming the highest-paid coach in the SEC East after winning the division in his first season.

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