"Win" the press conference
This doesn't matter much, to be clear: Press conferences are for the press, and we will make more of McElwain being introduced by Foley and saying whatever it is he's going to say than anything else. Will Muschamp aced his introductory presser, and it didn't really matter; it's also not hard to ace one.
But Florida (read: Foley) needs fans to buy tickets like it rarely has before, and McElwain saying things that convince people to come see the Gators play would be a really fine first step. And Foley giving McElwain a wide berth to be the star of the presser would be a good idea, too, even if certain hit pieces on his ego and legacy seem to have only a tenuous link to reality: For them to be swayed to pay the hundreds and thousands of dollars that tickets cost, Gators fans need to be excited about the new coach far more than they need to be reminded that Foley's good at his job.
Defend and develop a quarterback
McElwain's got a reputation as a strong developer of offensive talent, and his putting four modestly talented quarterbacks on NFL rosters is testament to that. At Florida, he'll have some assortment of Jeff Driskel (seemingly, at least), Will Grier, Treon Harris, Sheriron Jones (as far as we know), and anyone else he brings in to work with. Driskel's probably no more than a stopgap, and I'd be a little surprised if he stays at Florida, and very surprised if he wins a starting job over Harris and Grier. But I wouldn't be surprised by either Grier or Harris starting in 2015, and I think Jones could factor into the competition, too.
And though all four of those players have been in spread systems for much of their quarterbacking careers, I think McElwain's hybrid pro-style/spread offense, like the one he used this season at Colorado State, could be adapted to those players' talents.
It's not going to matter, though, if the eventual starter can't stay upright.
Bud Elliott wrote yesterday about Florida's potential for significant depth issues on the offensive line in 2015. Florida's losing Tyler Moore to the NFL Draft, might lose D.J. Humphries to the NFL, and has already lost both Nolan Kelleher and Drew Sarvary to medical redshirts. Seniors Trenton Brown, Max Garcia, and Chaz Green are gone, too (Green could technically petition for a sixth year at Florida, but it's not happening), and if Humphries departs with them, Florida's only returning starter will be left guard Trip Thurman.
So it's worth charting out what Florida's OL could look like in a worst-case scenario, if all of those players go and no JUCO transfers or other recruits are added to the four-man offensive line class the Gators currently have.
|LT||David Sharpe||Andrew Mike||George Brown, Jr.|
|LG||Trip Thurman||Brandon Sandifer||Mike Horton|
|C||Cameron Dillard||Thurman||Tyler Jordan|
|RG||Antonio Riles||Travaris Dorsey||Horton|
|RT||Rod Johnson||Kavaris Harkless||Brown|
There is one player who would be more experienced than a redshirt sophomore in that depth chart, and it's Thurman, who is about a replacement-level lineman in my estimation. Sharpe looked good in very limited action in 2014 (I imagine he'll get a medical redshirt, magically), and Johnson has been a pleasant surprise when he's been on the field in relief of Green and/or Humphries this year, but this is a thin, young line, and the Band-Aids available for that are few. McElwain ought to work on keeping Humphries — who is valuable for depth, even if his play can be uneven — and probably on either retaining offensive line coach Mike Summers, who helped Florida's line this year yield just 14 sacks, tied for 19th nationally, or somehow bringing in a coach on his level. (Colorado State OL coach Dave Frazier, who would likely be the favorite for the job if Summers is not retained, does have Pro Bowler Logan Mankins and 2014 second-rounder Weston Richburg on his résumé.)
If McElwain can get a patchwork line functioning, he can avoid the porous units that plagued Florida's first three seasons under Muschamp, which helped to stunt Driskel's growth and short-circuit passing games (Florida's starting QBs missed at least one game in all three seasons) in ways that irrevocably altered Muschamp's tenure. At a minimum, McElwain needs to avoid Muschamp's failure on the recruiting trail — taking just four linemen over two recruiting classes — that helped condemn those lines to their struggles.
Find or make playmakers
Florida's got a go-to receiver in Demarcus Robinson, even if I strongly believe he'll only play one year for McElwain before heading to greener pastures in the NFL. Florida's got a logical starting running back in Kelvin Taylor, who might also harbor dreams of spending just one more year at Florida before bolting for the league. And I think McElwain can make at least one of the Gators' QBs into a playmaker.
That's probably not enough.
We've seen Florida's offense struggle in 2014 with Robinson and Taylor around, and even allowing for some significant improvement by both, I don't think they alone give Florida enough options to have a productive, efficient offense in 2015. So it will fall to McElwain, a former wide receivers coach, to get something out of the gaggle of largely unproductive pass-catchers on the roster — Latroy Pittman has come on of late, and seems to have chemistry with Harris; Brandon Powell's quickness was underutilized in 2014; Ahmad Fulwood has all the measurables — or find recruits who can be those playmakers. Keeping the electric Derrick Dillon would be a good start; potentially flipping J.C. Jackson to offense might help, too.
McElwain's got some players to work with, and a couple of months to find diamonds in the rough, but it's more likely that he'll have to rely on development now, and discovery later.
Development of offensive players was never a strong suit under Muschamp. McElwain will get his opportunities to prove he's not the same as the guy before him very early in his Florida tenure.