December 4, 2015
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with Coach McElwain, head coach of the SEC Eastern Division Champion, Florida Gators. Shortly after his press conference we'll have a photo I opportunity and then Coach Saban will follow.
With that, we'll welcome Coach McElwain.
COACH McELWAIN: First and foremost, it's great to be here. We're excited to have this Florida Gator football team back in Atlanta. You know, our guys have been through a ton this season, and I just can't tell you how proud I am of them. Looking forward to this. Looking forward to this event.
This has been a season of discovery for us from the time we took over about a year ago today I think. It's been a lot of fun, and yet I can see how much we have to go and how much we have to build and what's great is we've got the pieces in place. Organizationally, it's really good, and administratively, an understanding of what direction we need to go. It's been a lot of fun.
Not real excited about playing these creatures, but that's the way it goes.
Q. Is when you break down Reggie Ragland, what do you see on film and how good of a player has he developed into?
COACH McELWAIN: I think you see a guy who has the carryover from the front end to the back end and piecing it all together. The importance of those positions and that particular position, making sure everybody is on the same page; you can see the communication, the understanding, what they want to accomplish, versus whatever set the other team is in. And then when the ball is snapped, how quickly he gets to it. It's fun to watch.
Q. Earlier this week, you said that you predicted that Treon was going to have a great week in practice. How did that week go in practice?
COACH McELWAIN: I've never really been good at predicting. (Laughter) but no, he's been good. He'll come out and play his tail off, as all our guys will. I'm excited for him.
It's interesting, when we talked -- it's been awhile for the Gators to be here and to have been here in Atlanta. When you look around the room and none of them -- I guess you kind of took it for granted there for awhile. Just figured these guys knew the routine of this week.
You know, it's been fun. It's been fun to see them sitting on every word as to how we are going to do things and go about our business. I'm sure excited for them.
Q. You mentioned it at the top: How surreal is it that today is the one-year anniversary that it was announced that you would be the new head coach at Florida?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, it's gone awful fast, and actually Jeremy is the one who reminded me of it. The reason it reminded me, I was hoping he wasn't going to tell me it's time to leave.
It's been so much fun seeing the development of the program, of our players, of the people around the program. When you sit back and reflect just a little bit, we've come a long ways, but how far we're going to go, is what's probably the most exciting part of it.
Q. Now that you're on the other side of it, what's the toughest thing about facing a Nick Saban team?
COACH McELWAIN: Probably knowing how they go about their business. That's the hardest part. As well-prepared as you're ever going to be in staff on both sides of the ball; and not necessarily just prepared for the football X's and O's part, but the expectation of how you go about your business throughout the week to get there; the focus on the detail, and you know, it's -- I guess probably one of the not-so-good things is I do kind of know a little bit about how they go about their business.
As I say, we are kind of in the discovery phase a little bit. We're getting there. I just can't tell you how excited we are to be here.
Q. Alabama's defense, obviously No. 2 in the country. A lot of people think they are impenetrable, their offense hasn't been playing --
COACH McELWAIN: That's an understatement.
Q. A lot of the armchair quarterbacks say here is where McElwain has to pull out the stops and do something to trick Alabama.
COACH McELWAIN: How are you going to trick them? It's like when he hired me and said, look, Mac, just work hard and be complete in what you do. And the one thing when you watch them play on that side of the ball, they are complete in what they do. And each one of them, they complement each other because they do their job.
You know, where are those explosive plays. I just go back and talk about the explosive run reel, that's something that you look at. In 12 games, there were 14 explosive runs against them in 12 games.
Now, let me explain two of those. One of them was a two-yard loss that happened to be a penalty, so it got on the reel as a gain, okay. The other one guy fumbled forward. So realistically, they had 12. And that's impressive.
So for us, it's got to be one of those deals where, look, stay out of negative plays, and give yourself an opportunity to just kind of chip away at it a little bit. They are really good.
Q. What do you remember most about coaching on the same staff as Kirby Smart and what kind of head coach do you think he'll be one day?
COACH McELWAIN: First and foremost, I'm surprised it's taken this long. And he is going to be an outstanding coach, and head coach. Both of us have had the opportunity to learn from one of the best. And it's not just the football part. Sometimes it's all the things that touches the desk of that head football coach, and that's why the training I think is so invaluable. There's no doubt whenever, whatever it is, he will be a great head coach.
Q. Since Goldkamp isn't here --
COACH McELWAIN: Now let's start here. Let one of these guys take a video -- guys, I don't know if you know Edgar or anything, but I feel for the guy. The guy is his own asking a question, typing the report and taking video at the same time. I mean, you talk about multi-talented. Awesome.
Q. I don't know about the talented part. So since Goldkamp is not here --
COACH McELWAIN: Now what did he do, did he bail out on us?
Q. Oh, no.
COACH McELWAIN: Where's he at?
Q. He's on his way I'm sure.
COACH McELWAIN: Did we start early? We need to fine him for not being here right.
Q. Who won't be available for the Gators?
COACH McELWAIN: The only guy, and I don't have my sheet in front of me, so I'm not dodging the question -- as you know I don't. Brandon Powell was in a boot all day yesterday. That means it's something with his lower foot probably. I'm trying to think, who do you have questions on, I guess -- yeah, he's out --
Q. And Morrison?
COACH McELWAIN: You know what, I would be -- I would be surprised if he didn't give it a go. I don't know how hundred percent he is. But this just means so much to him that I'm going to say he's probably going to jump in there and not let us take him out.
Sharpe is questionable still. I didn't think he looked very good yesterday.
Q. The other question, the defense, Joey Ivie admitted he took a peek at the scoreboard the other night in the fourth quarter and kind of lost hope a little bit. How has that unit bounced back? Was that the first time you saw him get a little bit demoralized?
COACH McELWAIN: Yeah, I saw them do some things that normally they haven't done, and yet, that's human nature. Here's the thing: We have an opportunity to learn from it. We had a pretty good week of practice.
Q. When you were under Coach Nick Saban you were here multiple times in the SEC Championship. Now that you're on the other side with the Florida Gators, what has been the message you have been preaching to your players about getting here and playing for a championship?
COACH McELWAIN: One of the things, when you're at a place like the University of Florida, our players, when they came to the University of Florida, the expectation is to be in this game. Those are the type of players that are choosing to come to Florida, the ones that expect to play in this game.
I guess what I'm so excited about more than anything, is the opportunity for this program to be back in Georgia and back in the Dome and playing for an SEC Championship, which guys, let's not take that lightly. Now that's pretty cool. I'm excited to see our guys even just in walk-through here. See them kind of look around, it's pretty neat.
Q. You're the biggest underdog since the mid 1990s in this SEC Championship Game. Do you use that as motivation? Do you rally around that or do you ignore it? How do you approach it with your players?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, I feel sorry whoever was the biggest, I guess, underdog if we're only the second biggest.
So what exactly is that? I don't know. We have an opportunity to go play the game. Everybody in this conference, their goal is to get to Atlanta, right. And you know what, the Florida Gators are in Atlanta. I'm okay with that.
Q. Wanted to ask about Derrick Henry, you don't see too many guys --
COACH McELWAIN: So you've never been better and now you're asking me about Derrick Henry. You're making me miserable right now. (Laughter).
Q. You don't see many 6-3, almost 6-4 guys out there at running back. What makes that unique and special?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, his size, not only height, obviously how he carries the weight that he carries, but here is the amazing thing is the amount of yards after somebody had first tried to tackle him -- and I say tried, because they weren't very successful. His amount of yards after contact are amazing.
Now, what I see is a guy, even going back as we are doing our breakdowns a couple years, I see a guy who has gotten better at a lot of the other things. His blocking is outstanding. He's becoming a good -- check him on the screens in the check downs. He's becoming really a complete player, and all the things people are saying about him are all true. The guy is a real player and a real guy. We've got our hands full with that one.
Q. What's been your impression of Jake Coker and how he's progressed and what he's been able to do?
COACH McELWAIN: He's the one that kind of makes that thing go. His confidence in the pocket, where he's going with the football, you can see that through his accuracy. Doing a great job of changing launch points for him and he knows when to take his shots.
I think that that's the one thing that he's playing the position like he should play. In other words, he's not giving it to the other team. And he's being very accurate on the throws that they are asking him to make, and it looks to me like he's been there five years the way he's playing and the command he's playing with.
Q. You guys welcomed back Demarcus Wednesday. How did he respond Wednesday, Thursday, coming back to the team?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, I think he made a choice and we'll see how he does. He'll get a few snaps out there. It's really interesting, you make something of things that -- look, at some point in everybody's life, you have an opportunity to help. And one thing I've said all along, I think he's come as far as everybody has in this program and continues to learn. It will be fun to see him come out here and play.
Q. The challenge for you guys trying to run against their stout defensive front seven, but as a head coach being able to watch your front seven go up against theirs and vice versa.
COACH McELWAIN: It's interesting, when you turn on the film, the first thing you kind of go to is to see who is dominating the line of scrimmage, one side or the other. That usually is the indicator on who is going to have the upper hand.
You know, the one thing I noticed maybe even more so than when I was at Alabama is the depth and number of guys they have in that front seven. You know, it's really something that speaks to what you need now as you build your team because of all these fast-paced teams, keeping guys fresh and being able to put them in. You know, Coach has recognized that and obviously beefed up that position to the point where there's no drop-off when those guys go in there.
Our guys have done a pretty good job, our own front, throughout the year, and what I've seen from them, and Coach Rumph has done a great job with them, is understanding the importance of truly doing your job. Because what happens sometimes to those guys is they try to do too much or they jump out of their gap thinking they are going to make some play. But as soon as you do that, that's when you give up a home run. That's when you give up a big play.
So I would say in both fronts' case, the discipline in which they play with really stands out.
Q. Going back to Demarcus, what was the reason for making the team --
COACH McELWAIN: It's a family decision. It's a family decision.
Q. And also, the running game, what have you seen from Kelvin this season as far as his maturation?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, what he's done and he keeps getting a little bit better at it, is understanding the patience he needs to the hole and then accelerate with speed through the hole. I think early, he was running so hard and so fast, sometimes he wasn't letting things develop and I think he's done a much better job of that. Obviously his numbers, he's I think done some things that will put him right up there historically as one of the real great Florida running backs.
Q. Talking to Jonathan Bullard at SEC media days and asking about you, how quickly can you turn it around, and he said, I hope this year because this is my last year. How vital has this senior class been to getting here?
COACH McELWAIN: I'm glad you asked that, because these seniors have committed more to the cause, and the cause being how do we affect each other in a positive way so we get the results, the desired results that we want.
You know, to see what those guys have been through for their senior -- going into their senior year, and now as I said before, I'm sure every single one of those seniors expected to be in this game more than a couple times during their career.
I can't tell you how happy I am for them to have this experience, because I know the couple experiences I've had, it's something that you remember for the rest of your life. That's what makes me real happy. And for a guy like Bullard who has really, especially here late in the year, has done so much to give of himself and for this team, it's pretty awesome.
Q. One thing that I was always struck with, the few times we got to talk to you in years past --
COACH McELWAIN: Aren't you lucky.
Q. Was how competitive practice would be versus Kirby and all. Have you instituted some kind of that kind of competition?
COACH McELWAIN: I think the one thing we do is we do a lot of good-on-good work, and that's something that we really kind of got from Coach. We did it at Colorado State, too. I think speed-on-speed, competition-on-competition helps you get a little bit better. I've got to say, our team run drills, against each other, they are pretty fun. But I think that's what it does is it kind of sets you -- kind of sets your pads, sets your mind-set going into the game.
As far as from a staff standpoint, the one thing and Coach was big on this, too: Each part of the team is responsible for each other. And whatever you can do to help win the game in your particular area, was something that was -- it becomes competitive on game day, I'll tell you that.
Q. Could it be a big advantage for you guys that yourself, coach Nuss and coach rump were on Coach Saban's staff, you might know some of the tendencies and the company secrets, if you will?
COACH McELWAIN: Yeah, that's the beauty. There really aren't any secrets. Honestly, it's something that's out there for everybody in this room, for everybody -- it doesn't matter who you are, to be successful. They aren't secrets.
Now there are qualities that take a lot of discipline and self-drive to achieve and I think the magical secret is: He's been able to move an entire organization in nine years, one that was probably floundering around a little bit when they got there, to arguably the most consistent college football program in the country.
The secrets are right there in front of you. It's deal is do we choose them, that's the deal. And he's been able to motivate people to do it.
Q. So you're saying that's not an advantage for you guys as coaches?
COACH McELWAIN: No. He knows how screwed up I am, anyway. (Laughter).
Q. One other question. Running Treon more, is that an option in this game?
COACH McELWAIN: Yeah, he may be running anyway just naturally for his life, right. No, that's something, quarterback-run-wise, they are created sometimes. We have done it a little bit. Probably not something that's -- let the scrambles happen.
Q. I was going to ask the same question about Treon. Antonio Callaway for you guys, how impressed have you been with him on special teams and a receiver, and how important has he been for you as a first-year guy?
COACH McELWAIN: Here is what he did was he actually didn't allow -- this is a talented guy, first of all, and fun to be around. And as soon as he got on campus, and then he started to go out and running self-skellies (ph) and one-on-ones and all that, he was one that immediately stood up that it wasn't too big for, and he loves the competition. And in turn, what's that done is elevated some people around him in that receiver core.
This is a guy that this conference is going to hear about for awhile to come and rightfully so. Not only what he does as a receiver, but obviously as a return guy. He's energized us and he is a true playmaker. He's a get-it-to-guy and we're going to make sure he gets his touches.
Q. It's been said that coaches in this conference have a Nick Saban problem. Do you count yourself in that number?
COACH McELWAIN: A Nick Saban problem? What's wrong with him? (Laughter).
Q. That the success, as you mentioned he's had at Alabama, is it harder -- puts more pressure on other coaches in the conference to succeed.
COACH McELWAIN: No, I don't think so, because in a way we are all -- it doesn't matter. In this profession, you're driven to do the best you can. That's what it's all about. I just know how fortunate I was to be a part of kind of seeing what that standard is all about maybe and how he goes about it. But I don't see it as a problem. I think the guy's a pretty good coach. Does a pretty good job.
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