In the first month of the season, the Florida Gators have endured some serious setbacks. Player suspensions. The loss to Michigan. The loss of a game to a hurricane. Injuries, including losing starting quarterback Luke Del Rio for the season.
At the same time, though, the Gators have experienced significant growth as a team, UF coach Jim McElwain said.
“I learned that we’ve got some guys that are starting to play together,” McElwain said. “Guys that have been through some things and yet continue to battle. I think we’ve become a better practice team and understanding why and what some of the things we do help prepare them for a game. I think that’s been really good to see, really the last two weeks.
“Even during those hot, hot (days), they understood and fought through it and got a little bit better. This is a team we will continue to learn about. I think any time you have the youth that we have, that’s a natural progression.”
McElwain said on offense there has been week-to-week progress since the loss to Michigan in the opener. Statistically, the Gators have improved each game. In last Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt, the offense produced a season high in points (38) and total yards (467).
“I put it on not only that spot (quarterback), but probably other position groups,” he said. “The last couple weeks, the running backs jumped up. We’ve created some plays with those guys on the edge. Our tight ends are playing well, all three of those guys, which we need to continue to happen.
“I don’t think we’ve talked about those guys enough. C’yontai (Lewis), (DeAndre) Goolsby. Moral Stephens really kind of growing up before our eyes.
“We’ve just got to continue to understand when something negative happens, it’s not the end of the world. It’s one play. I think we were better at just going and trying to win the next play and kind of clapping off whatever happened the play before and that’s something that we’ve got to continue to do.”
Overall, McElwain said this has become a very coachable team.
“I think the big thing from the discovery phase for them has been, ‘So why do I do this in practice?’ ” he said. “In other words, what’s the purpose? And then being able to show where that piece actually shows up in a game.
“They’re kind of starting to understand it’s not just running out of the tunnel on a Saturday, but rather the stuff that goes into it each week to prepare you for that Saturday. And that’s where I’ve seen these young guys really take a step forward. And that’s been fun to see.”