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Florida Gators fall practice recap: First scrimmage leaves Jim McElwain "very pleased"

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Florida's first scrimmage kept Jim McElwain up at night. He might sleep well on Friday.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida's first scrimmage of its 2015 fall camp happened on Friday, away from the watchful eyes of media, with many Gators getting their first chance to play in The Swamp.

And, at least according to Florida coach Jim McElwain, it went better than anticipated.

Some of the more important takeaways:

Little separation at QB

I think we should probably just get used to reports of Will Grier looking sharper than Treon Harris to start practices and so forth; it's clearly a running theme.

Grier has stood out to the people who have been to Florida practices as sharper in those early segments of practice, too — and this reminds me of what I saw last year, when Harris started Florida's fall practices slow, but improved enough that Florida felt comfortable using him as Jeff Driskel's backup and allowing Grier to redshirt.

I'd still lean toward Grier, pressed to pick Florida's starter on September 5, but we're getting to the same stretch of fall practice in which Harris started to shine in 2014. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of him doing the same this year.

Minor injuries, but no surgeries

McElwain told reporters that wide receiver Raphael Andrades ("pulled something in the back of his leg") and linebacker Matt Rolin ("you know, it's something every week, so I couldn't tell you what that was") each suffered injuries that knocked them out of the scrimmage. Five other players — defensive back Duke Dawson, offensive lineman Travaris Dorsey, linebacker Anthony Harrell, running back Mark Herndon, and wide receiver C.J. Worton — were held out due to injuries, as well, but McElwain said the leg injuries sustained by Dorsey and Worton on Wednesday would not require surgery:

The most significant of those injuries is probably the one sustained by Worton, as he's sounded like one of the few bright spots among Florida's receivers, but the best news is probably the conspicuous absence of Alex McCalister, held out of practice earlier this week due to a hamstring injury. Unlike the rest of that list, McCalister's a lock to start if healthy, so him being able to go is great.

And: Woof, that McElwain quote on the oft-injured Rolin is shady.

Special teams draws qualified praise

Florida ran 26 "good reps" on special teams plays, according to McElwain, but Austin Hardin missed a field goal, which prompted a typically folksy bit of shade.

In other news, Johnny Townsend "is doing a really good job punting," and Vernon Hargreaves III — who also had a pick-six in the scrimmage — worked as the punt returner, while Brandon Powell worked as a kick returner. Playmakers over scrubs at those positions seems to be the McElway. (Sorry.)

Assorted notes and quotes

  • McElwain, asked about offensive standouts: "(Ahmad) Fulwood kinda showed up a little bit today, but ... what is he, 6'3"? And we had a pass over there that, he looked like he was 5'2". Go get it!"
  • McElwain on Kelvin Taylor: "For the first time since we've been here, he didn't try to take everything to the sideline." "Caught the ball well out of the backfield, too."
  • McElwain sounds really, really perturbed by drops by receivers. Remember: He spent 18 years as a wide receivers coach.
  • New McElwainism: "Loading the wagon." It means "adding to a player's responsbilities," loosely.
  • McElwain's plan for using Florida's indoor practice facility: "Taking the beating of the sun off ... every third practice" during two-a-days. During game weeks, Monday practices will be weather-dependent, Tuesdays will be outside, Wednesdays will be "a push" depending on Monday and Tuesday, and Thursday and Friday will be spent indoors.
  • McElwain hinting that there's a lot to work with on the offensive line: Coaches "really feel good about" the players at their disposal.
  • McElwain: "A ton of the 'hidden yardage'" teams gain or lose in a given game comes on special teams. Impresses the importance of starting on special teams before on offense or defense on Florida players by noting Florida strength assistant Mike Peterson played special teams throughout his NFL career.
  • McElwain on redshirting: "If they're ready ... and can play valuable reps, they're gonna play." Timetable for deciding that is "after the second scrimmage"; it really comes down to "value on special teams."
  • Jarrad Davis had high praise for Randy Shannon, saying he's done a really good job of getting to know Florida's linebackers on an individual level and simplifying things for each of them.
  • Davis broke down Florida's running backs as thus: Jordan Scarlett is "deceiving ... he'll shake you, but he'll come back and also run through you; Kelvin Taylor "has the moves"; Jordan Cronkrite "runs the ball hard, one cut and go."
  • Davis also said one of the more message board-ready things of the day: "It's definitely more difficult to stop the offense now than it was in (the) last couple of years."

Florida Interviews After First Scrimmage

Jim McElwain

Mason Halter and Jake McGee

Jarrad Davis and Brian Poole