“Hello. Thanks for coming out to Schembechler Hall.”
Can you talk about the two guys that were selected as captains and what you think their teammates saw in them that put them there?
“Yeah, first of all, it was a really good group. We looked at the seniors and the fifth-year players who could be elected captain and put it up there on the wall, on the screen. Really good leaders in that group so felt like we’d get two really good captains. We voted and we did: Mason Cole on offense, Mike McCray on defense. Both “Go Blue” guys, both poised to have big years, both starting players, both very good players at the highest level, so excited about both of our captains.
“And, as I said before, all of our seniors, our leaders, the way the leadership group is coming together.”
Are you ready to announce who is starting at quarterback?
“Have not heard Florida announce who their starting quarterback will be and we would love to have that information.”
Is that a no?
“So, uh, no, we’re not announcing our starting quarterback. As I said before, people make a big deal about our roster or not announcing a starting quarterback; I’m not seeing a starting quarterback—I haven’t seen the starting quarterback come out at Florida but never any mention of that. Very interesting. But yes, we would like to have that information from them. I’m sure they’d like to have it from us and right now neither is giving that information.”
This is typical [in that] you normally don’t name a quarterback early. Do you have a certain philosophy as to why that’s the case?
“Well, it’s been that the philosophy is it’s a meritocracy and competition is healthy and fair and productive. It’s been very good. As I said, it’s been a good camp for our quarterbacks and we feel confident in our guys. We believe in them.”
Obviously you don’t want to tell us but do you have a plan in mind? Do those guys know who’s going to be in at quarterback heading into game week at this point?
“We’re, uh, working on it, yes. It’s been formulated and we’ve communicated it.”
[After THE JUMP: a more focused offensive line, one surefire starter at corner, Florida standouts, and the deputization of leadership]
What did you like best about your preseason practices?
“I like the way our team has worked. I like the way they’ve competed without complaint. That’s been especially good. I like the way the team’s coming together. I like the communication of where we are as far as a football team on the field, communicating calls and I like their understanding of what we’re doing schematically. I like the way they’ve worked. All those things.”
What players’ numbers jump out at you when you watch Florida as you prepare your team for the challenge and opportunity?
“Defensively #92, #11, #7 in the secondary. It’s a long, athletic team. Very quick and very aggressive. They’ll be in man coverage with an attacking style of defense. Randy Shannon is an outstanding coach and we’re looking forward to the competition and finding out where were at against a very good, talented team.”
MGoQuestion: Which position group would you say has made the biggest leap from the start of fall camp to today?
“I would point to the offensive line, the secondary…the tight end group has been very good. Running backs, receivers. Yeah, everybody has made strides and improvements.”
With the offensive line specifically, why are they in that group? Of the group that you listed, what about them has grown or—
“Their physicality has grown. The athleticism is very good. As we’ve gone, the amount of mental mistakes and mental error have been reducing by the practice. They’re a locked-in group. It’s a more focused group, and that’s been improving as well. Not as much fun and games and joking and laughing, that kind of thing. They are very focused and improving.”
Have you settled your five there?
“Yeah, we’re—we feel like we are in a good place there.”
Has anybody broken out at cornerback?
“Yeah. Lavert Hill has been extremely good. Brandon Watson and David Long are doing extremely well and competing for that second starting spot. Jaylen Kelly-Powell is on the rise. An ascending player both as a safety, a corner, and a nickel. It’s coming along. It’s coming along in the secondary.
“Defensively, as a unit we’re seeing the same thing. Practice after practice, they’re really knowing what to do and executing right now.”
With such a young team, can you see development in practice or are you still not sure until you see them in a game? Do you know what you have now or do you have to see it in a game?
“I think you see it now and then the game’s the next step, taking things that they do in practice and taking that next step to the game. Always been a believer that the things you do well in practice you’re going to do well in the game. Accurate in practice as a quarterback, accurate in the games, that kind of philosophy. But yeah, there is another step to playing in a game.”
Do you feel good about it, that they’re ready for that step?
“Well, it’s my job to worry about every little thing right now. Always felt it better to worry before the game than during the game. We’re continuing to try and think of everything we can to get our players prepared for the first game.”
Mason Cole and Mike McCray were both here in 2014 when the team had a losing season. How does that experience help shape them into better captains?
“That’d probably be a better question for them.”
What sort of fall camp did Tyree Kinnel have and how ready do you feel he is to go into this season?
“Feel like he’s had a very good fall camp and he’s ready, ready to go. He’s one of those hardworking, it’s-important-to-him, very-focused type of guys and he’s got experience and he’s had a very good camp.”
Last week Khalid Hill mentioned it’s more of an all-business mentality. You just mentioned the offensive line is more focused. Is that more because of you or more because of the players? Is this more player-led or more on your end?
“I think it always starts—I feel like, anyway, as a coach it’s your responsibility for everything and the leadership that you provide is for most everything and then as you go you start deputizing captains and leaders and delegating a good share of that leadership, [but] not all of it. Your duties and responsibilities dictate that as a coach, you are responsible to fulfill your duties but there’s more deputizing the players to take the ownership and take a good share of the leadership themselves.”
When you sit back and watch them follow your instruction and you mentioned deputizing leaders, when you watch them carry out what you want, what are your thoughts? Throughout practice, throughout camp, how would you grade that?
“Appreciative. That’s what a good team does. They come together and get all together, all on the same page and its starts with coaches, with players, by position, at units, and the entire team.”
Can you talk about the defensive line depth and how that’s progressing?
“Yeah. Still working on that. It’s not a finished product yet. Some areas, that included, there’s the practice and then there’s the next step of a game. There’s still opportunity to be had there and positions to be solidified on the defensive line. Depth. Think we’re good with the starters.”
Talk about the magic of college football, how there’s no preseason that anyone gets to see at least, and teams like you and Florida and Alabama-Florida State right away are going to see where they match up.
“Well, ‘unique’ would be the word I would use in place of ‘magic’ because it is. There’s no other sport that I can think of right now that doesn’t have a preseason, an exhibition season, or spring training in college or in professional sports other than college football so that’s the…no exhibition games. It’s unique. It is what it has always been, is and for the foreseeable future is going to be. That being understood, you better be ready to play your first game.”