Florida coach on quarterbacks, OL play, Nick Saban

HOOVER, Ala. — Here is part of what Florida coach Jim McElwain had to say Monday at the Southeastern Conference Media Days:

Q. Coach, what about Luke Del Rio makes it obvious to you that he’s a coach’s son, and what has your interaction, if any, been with Jack?
COACH McELWAIN: Sure. I got to say this. All four guys we have in that quarterback room I’m really excited about. Luke being one of them who obviously was with us last year, so his familiarity with what we’re doing.

I’ve known Luke a long time. I think he was an eighth grader when he came to camp in Alabama. Obviously, Jack, when they were in Colorado, he’s a guy that we stayed in touch with a lot, and so, you know what, I’m excited to see us at that position. And the way Luke is, and Austin, both have kind of elevated the guys around them. It will be fun here during two-a-days to see who takes that step, but, you know, as far as your other question, I had a brief stint with the Raiders, so I’m kind of a Raiders fan and I’m excited for Jack.

Q. When you’re looking at this offensive line, everybody always says they want to get five, their best five out there. Is there — are you trying to get to like a level of eight?
COACH McELWAIN: Yeah. In — obviously our offensive line play has got to get better. That’s something we’ve already talked about and, Pat, you and I have already talked about it already, and yet those three true freshman that played last year had an opportunity to kind of learn under fire, and I’ll be excited to see what they learned as we get back.

You know, ideally, what we’d like to be able to do is be ten, where you had, you know, kind of backups at each one of those spots. Whether we get there or not, I’m not sure. Usually in a rotation of nine is ideal. And you got to have versatility at the center spot, and that’s something we got to make sure we have as well.

Q. Hey, Coach, I notice all the Nick Saban assistants to get SEC jobs are always in the other division. Is that by coincidence, or is that kind of by design? And what do you think it will take for one of you guys to beat him, and do you guys ever talk about that amongst yourselves?
COACH McELWAIN: I know what an honor it was to work for Coach, what I was able to learn when I was at the University of Alabama. And I was excited to be able to play him. I know this, I’ll be excited to play him again this year, because I know it’s in Atlanta.

Q. Coach, you talked about your quarterback room previously. It’s very interesting that you have two transfers, two freshman. There’s a nice dynamic there. What’s the difference as a coach when you’re recruiting a high school kid as opposed to bringing in a transfer? One player looking a year or two down the road versus one that needs to help you right away?
COACH McELWAIN: I think the key there is having that right mix. Obviously in Austin Appleby, someone who played in big games, he’s played in big stadiums, having started in the Big Ten. That’s something that’s invaluable. You know, in Luke’s case, familiarity he had kind of with what we do offensively, I think is good.

The key is to see that competition, and what those guys do to give of themselves, to help those two younger guys in Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks, how they help them develop. That’s what has been kind of fun, is to see some veterans who know how to study a game plan, know how to study install. Kind of from that standpoint help those younger guys come along. Here’s the good thing. We’ve really got good arm talent. I’m excited about being able to stretch the field vertically. Should be a lot of fun.

Q. Considering the way your place kicking transpired last year —
COACH McELWAIN: Are you going come kick for us?

Q. You got a guy now —
COACH McELWAIN: We’ll see. I don’t think the guy has ever kicked in a game. But we’ll find out.

Q. That’s what I was wondering. I know you were happy to see what happened in the spring, but do you think it can transfer over to when the lights are really on, what you saw?
COACH McELWAIN: You know, that’s going to be interesting. I know this. I was excited to see he was able to buckle his chinstrap. That was awesome. And to see that happen, you know what, that’s a step in the right direction. Obviously, he’s got a very strong leg, talking about Eddy.

And, you know, Jorge Powell, who will be back, that actually got hurt in the LSU game a year ago, taking over the kicking duties, he’s back to being healthy. We’ll talk about that same piece. Johnny Townsend really did a great job for us as a punter, on the hidden yardage, the field position, pinning guys down inside the ten. I thought he did an outstanding job of giving the opponent long fields.

So, you know, that’s a group that, you know, we’ll see. And yet I got total faith in the kickers, and they are a lot of fun to be around, too.

Q. Coach, Nick Saban took a chance on you, bringing you in from Fresno State to run an offense, and of course did very well with that. A couple of national championships. Of course now you’re with Florida, had a ten-win season last year. What are some of the things that you value from being around Coach Saban, whether was in the film room, on the field, in telephone conversations? How much did you really value that experience?
COACH McELWAIN: You know, as you go through this, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been round a lot of great head coaches and guys I’ve been able to take a lot of things from. Coach, you know, he only asked a couple of things, is work hard and be complete in what you do.

If you think about it, all of us kind of live by that. We have a pretty good chance to be successful. That’s something I’ll always take.

And yet, when I was head off to Colorado State, he pointed something out. He said: Whatever you do, you got to do it your way. You got to be you. You can’t be someone else. And I think that’s a piece that I probably tried to take with me, and, you know, because he’s one of the best and a guy that I consider, you know, a friend, and a guy that I can lean on at any time.

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