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Monday, March 04, 2024

Jim McElwain reflects on past, looks toward future at Florida

<p>Jim McElwain instructs his players during Florida's Spring practice at the Sanders Practice Fields on March 9, 2016.</p>

Jim McElwain instructs his players during Florida's Spring practice at the Sanders Practice Fields on March 9, 2016.

Jim McElwain remembers his first coaching contract well.

It was worth $4,723 per year and moved him up from graduate assistant to a full-fledged coach at his alma mater, Eastern Washington.

"Still have the contract," McElwain said. "Coached quarterbacks and receivers, taught classes, tended a bar, worked at J.C. Penney’s. So I’ve come a ways."

With the raise he received back in February — a raise that took his annual salary from $3.5 million a year to $4.25 million a year — that might be an understatement.

But after a 10-win season, the second-year coach is thankful for the confidence being placed in his long-term plan for Florida football.

"It’s so good to know that your university and your administration believes in the direction that we’re taking this thing," he said.

One of the steps in that direction was Thursday’s scrimmage, the first full scrimmage of Spring practice for the Gators.

Overall, McElwain "really felt good" about his team’s performance and was pleased with all the reps — 117 to be exact, not counting special teams — his players got, particularly his younger players.

He made note of his defense’s third-down improvement and its three takeaways during the scrimmage, which, of course, wasn’t a bright spot from an offensive perspective.

The offense did, however, put together some quick starts on a few series, including some "explosive passes" from the quarterbacks.

"I thought all the quarterbacks had their moments, both good and bad," McElwain said.

"And yet, I think the consistency in which they played was pretty darned good."

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No one was able to separate himself from the field, however.

McElwain also praised his wide receivers for catching the ball well, as well as the running backs for catching the ball out of the backfield.

In the kicking game, transfer Eddy Pineiro made a few field goals, albeit without any pressure. The plan this week is to put him into more high-pressure kicking situations.

And other than one errant kick that went out of bounds "really fast and really hard," according to McElwain, Pineiro’s kickoff skills impressed the coach.

"His hang time, when he swings his leg, I think we’ve got a chance to have a pretty good cover team because of him," McElwain said.

Having a full year under his belt and having the returning players used to the system has already made a significant difference this spring, and being able to concentrate on more than just learning the expectations has made events like Thursday’s scrimmage that much more valuable.

"Even in the install phase, you’re just farther ahead," McElwain said.

"I think that that would be true for any program going into their second year, and you can really tell just how the guys know what to expect from a practice structure standpoint in what they’ve done."

Contact Graham Hack at ghack@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @graham_hack24.

Jim McElwain instructs his players during Florida's Spring practice at the Sanders Practice Fields on March 9, 2016.

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