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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Notebook: Gators hoping for explosive offense under McElwain

<p>Florida coach Jim McElwain speaks to the media during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Monday, July 13, 2015, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)</p>

Florida coach Jim McElwain speaks to the media during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Monday, July 13, 2015, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Florida’s offense has been anemic the last couple of seasons and it’s one of the reasons UF went in a new direction at head coach.

The Gators were among the worst teams in the Southeastern Conference at generating yards per game under the Will Muschamp era. Last year, Florida’s offense ranked 104th in the country in total yards (4,411), with only Vanderbilt (125th, 3,460) being worse in the SEC.

But first-year head coach Jim McElwain is working to create more dynamic opportunities for the offense.

"We need to create explosive plays. Obviously we need to be able to change field position," McElwain said at SEC Media Days. "Some of that might be we’ll need to take chances in the special teams situations to maybe get a couple more possessions."

UF’s offense last year under Kurt Roper was shotgun heavy, but McElwain, along with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, has made it a priority to change the language in the playbook and open it up for more offensive formations.

"The play calling from last year is totally different you know we were shotgun really all game," sophomore wide receiver Brandon Powell said at SEC Media Days. "But now this year, we’re shotgun, under center, two wide, maybe go five wide sometimes. You got a lot of variety and play calling so that’s going to help us out."

Morrison and Thurman progressing: McElwain confirmed there is no timetable for linebacker Antonio Morrison’s return as he’s still recovering from a knee injury. Morrison injured his knee during Florida’s 28-20 win against East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3. McElwain also said Morrison will be limited to no-contact drills when the Gators open up Fall camp on Aug. 6.

On the other side of the injury report, McElwain said offensive lineman Trip Thurman will be ready to go for Florida once camp opens. Thurman, who started 10 games last year at left guard, missed all of Spring practice dealing with a shoulder injury. It’s the same shoulder that he had offseason surgery on in 2013. Thurman is expected to make the transition to center this season.

New role for Jonathan Bullard: Senior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard will be moving around on the defensive line. McElwain said that the Shelby, North Carolina, native will be playing multiple spots along the line as Florida tries to use him in different defensive packages, similar to the role Dante Fowler Jr. took on last year.

"We hope to move him around quite a bit," McElwain said. "From an offensive standpoint, if you always know where that guy is you can always slide your protection, chip a back, bump him with a tight end on the way out whatever that is.

"So what we try to do is make sure we’re putting him in different spots so it’s not as easy from an offensive standpoint to know where that guy is."

Bullard started all 12 games last year and had 8.5 tackles-for-loss, third most on the team, and had 2.5 sacks while recording 52 tackles.

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Freshman wide receiver making early impression: Antonio Callaway has impressed his teammates since he’s arrived on campus. Callaway, a four-star wide receiver according to Rivals.com, stood out to Powell during the player-run workouts.

"He’s going to be a good player for us this year," Powell said. "He’s just one of those shifty receivers, one of those South Florida guys that (has) all the athleticism in the world."

Callaway was named to the 2014 Class 4A All-State First Team and helped Miami Booker T. Washington High to a state title last year.

Florida coach Jim McElwain speaks to the media during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Monday, July 13, 2015, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

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