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December 3, 2016

Jim McElwain

Atlanta, Georgia

Alabama - 54

Florida - 16

THE MODERATOR: If everyone will take your seats. Reminder to please have your cell phones on silent or off. We'll begin and ask Coach McElwain for his general thoughts on the game, and then we'll take your questions.

COACH McELWAIN: First of all, I'm proud of this football team. I'm proud of our guys, what they've gone through this year, this season. You know what, they came and laid it on the line today.

Obviously, you're not going to beat anybody giving them the ball four times, especially a team like Nick has put together, which in my opinion, is the best team top to bottom that he's had since he's been there. That's a credit to him, his coaching staff, their commitment, their commitment to him, and what he's able to do.

We had a pretty good plan, I felt. We put some dents in them. Would have liked to have pounded that one in there. Realize maybe, take the field goal, get it to a two-score game. But at that point, I felt momentum-wise, we could bang one of them in there -- I don't know what they were at, 33 or something like that. I felt we could maybe get them puckered up a little bit.

I will tell you this. I didn't come here to be close. We came here to be champions of the SEC. That's what you do when you're at the University of Florida, and that's the expectation, and I understand that. I'm proud of those seniors that chose to come back. I thought what Jarrad Davis did today was fantastic. That speaks a lot about a guy who was willing to lay it all out there for his team and for his family.

Q. Coming in, you knew you had to take care of the football. What happened with the turnovers there in the first quarter? Bad reads? A bad decision?
COACH McELWAIN: I think the first one, you know, felt a little pressure and let it hang high over the middle late. That's the number one rule of playing football there, not a good deal.

We knew we had to get them off balance, and we tried to do that with some of the play action stuff. They've made some other teams turn the ball over, I think, this year, and I knew going in we had to take care of the ball. I talked about that, and we didn't.

Q. You had said this game was kind of a measuring stick for you guys. Where does that leave you guys in terms of what you need to do?
COACH McELWAIN: I'll tell you what I saw. Obviously, the depth was a huge issue, and where it really shows up, guys, you know. You've been around a long time. It's in special teams. Obviously, we got our tails kicked in that area. When you're thin like that, that's the nature of it.

When you're building a program, taking over a program, you run through some attrition. Your body count isn't always there. We've got to get that back up. I'm not saying those guys on those teams didn't try now. That's not what I'm getting at at all. They tried their tails off. Sometimes you go against players that, you know, are pretty good, right? That's the way it goes.

Again, my credit is to what Coach has built and the commitment that they've given him and the trust they've given him to keep it going.

Q. Jim, you mentioned this might be Nick's best team. What is it about this team that makes them a little bit better than some of the other great ones he's had?
COACH McELWAIN: I think -- I don't see a lot of weaknesses, even in the depth piece, you know. And the thing I see is they're built a little different. I think overall, just the overall team speed is different. There aren't a lot of teams that can run even with us. We've got fast guys. And they've really accumulated a lot of speed at some spots where they were always big.

But I think that that's the one thing I see, and obviously the element of what they've done with that quarterback.

Q. Coach, what was the feeling on the sideline after that first drive that you guys took it right down the field and --
COACH McELWAIN: Defensively, what did they have, six plays, zero yards, or something there, on a couple of series. Their guys -- but trying to -- you can't -- you know, when that happens, when you shoot yourself with the turnovers, and they're getting cheap points, which got them into the game. But with that being said, our guys came here to win, and I think it showed.

Q. Moving forward, how imperative is it to -- I mean, Appleby and Del Rio were, I guess, sort of stop gap quarterbacks -- to develop a quarterback?
COACH McELWAIN: Yeah, that's something we've got to do. We've got to make sure that happens sooner or later, and that's my responsibility, and it will get done.

Q. Jim, going off of that, this month for the Bowl game that you guys are going to be in is going to give you an opportunity to potentially get one of the freshmen ready. Is that something that you would consider, or is it too late to burn a redshirt this late in the season?
COACH McELWAIN: I don't -- I mean, I haven't really -- you know, that's one of those deals I think we have to sit down with them and their parents and handlers and all that. I'm not sure it's fair, but at the same time, I know they want to play. So we'll see.

Q. And then whether it's one of those guys or even some of the younger players, you talk about developing depth and trying to build for the future. How do you weigh that, getting ready for this Bowl game, where you want to play the guys that give you the best chance of winning but also kind of set yourself up for the future and get some young guys?
COACH McELWAIN: One thing I do know, we've got to go to win this Bowl game wherever we do end up. We're going to put a plan together and get the players out there to go play that and go win a game.

Q. Just how critical is the ball game to come out and put out a good performance in that game?
COACH McELWAIN: I think it's good. Obviously, we open up with a big opponent next year in Dallas. So the Bowl game itself, we've got to go play hard and put a plan together and win. The guys have got to go compete, not be afraid.

And I was really disappointed, obviously, in the effort last year, but this is a different team. We've got some guys that are in it for a lot more than just themselves.

Q. And you mentioned -- I mean, you guys were down, I think, 17-9 after the Reese play, which was a pretty spectacular play, but they still hadn't even had a first down. Does that kind of show you how they can beat you in so many ways?
COACH McELWAIN: Yeah, it goes back -- and credit them for the amount of guys that they've recruited and the bodies they've recruited and the quality they've recruited. They keep -- they never slow down in anything they do as an organization. They're always pushing for what the next thing is, and when they finish one thing, it's on to another that's already been planned. It's the same way they do in recruiting. It's the whole organization itself believing, aligned, and they trust Coach, and they've given him -- he's done a great job with it.

Like I said, I do, I think this is the best 85 that they've probably traveled with to the SEC Championship game. I mean, that's a real ball squad.

Q. Obviously, it was a disappointing day, but what's the biggest positive you can take into a Bowl game and into spring practices next year?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, there's a lot of positives when you look back at the expectations that were there that weren't much for this team, right? As I told them, they've just got to close out the noise from the outside and bond together, and let's just go win and not worry about anybody else.

Q. Commitment to the program has been a big theme this week for you. Are there any specific steps you'd like to see taken in your own program to get you to the next level?
COACH McELWAIN: You know, I'm just happy to be here and coach my tail off with the guys we've got. It is what it is. I mean, you guys have been there. You see it. I'm proud of this football team because I know what they've been through, and they're a good group of guys that play their tails off for the Gators, and I'm proud of them.

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