SEC Media Days: New Florida head coach embraces the challenge ahead

Jim McElwain was one of three coaches who addressed the media Monday.
Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III speaks with press Monday, July 13, 2015 at the Southeastern Conference Media Days in Hoover, Alabama.

HOOVER, Ala. — It was the question regarding former Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper that awoke Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

Hargreaves, the son of the newly hired linebackers coach at Arkansas, is about as competitive as they come. Asked about a dream matchup against his dad’s team in the College Football Playoff, Hargreaves laughed. Then, he responded in serious context.

“We’d win,” he said. “No doubt.”

The Southeastern Conference Media Days kicked off Monday in Hoover, Alabama, with commissioner Greg Sankey speaking. Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt had representatives on the first day. Missouri will be up on Wednesday.

You’d think Hargreaves, a guy who has become the most decorated cornerback in the SEC, would enjoy talking smack. A pre-season Jim Thorpe Award watch list candidate, Hargreaves vividly remembers that early-season matchup against Cooper and the Crimson Tide last year.

“The jump-ball in the third quarter last year, I was in good position,” Hargreaves said of their battle in the end zone. “But that’s Amari Cooper,” Hargreaves said in front of swarming cameras and media. “I’m definitely glad he’s gone (to the NFL).”

New Florida Gators head man Jim McElwain inherits a luxury in Hargreaves, but yes, he realizes the uphill task at hand. And when the first question related to the state of the Florida program and getting back to its championship ways, it became that much more clear.

“I think part of the experience of being in this conference is realizing it doesn’t happen overnight,” McElwain said. “Every time we go to work every day, every time we wake up, our responsibility is to try to go out there and win.”

McElwain didn’t hold back from complimenting his predecessor, Will Muschamp, whose team went 7-4 (4-4 SEC) last season. The former Colorado State coach said Muschamp “did some really good things, obviously setting the table” and that he and his staff will “need to pick up from that and move forward.”

On that set table, Hargreaves is the silverware or the napkin. He’s the key instrument to making the dinner a success.

What’s a success for this year’s Florida Gator team?

“Just wins. All I want to do is win,” Hargreaves said, doing his best DJ Khaled impression.

Saban-Made

McElwain was asked about Nick Saban and his relationship with him, having won national championships with the Crimson Tide as its offensive coordinator in 2010 and 2012.

“I’ve been fortunate to be around some of the great ones,” McElwain said. “The one thing each of them has echoed is that at the end of the day, you’ve got to do it the way you do it.”

As it turns out, McElwain still stays in touch with Saban.

“He’s been a guy that’s always been there,” McElwain said. “As soon as I took the job, and a couple of times a year — three, four times, in some cases five — just being able to call, have as a resource. He’s there to help along the way.”

Embracing Pressure

On a new team, McElwain was asked if the pressure gets to him.

“I don’t ever look at it as pressure,” he said “I look at it as opportunity. I mean, that’s the way it is, but you know what, it’s that way for everybody. I’m confident that we’ve put a good thing together and looking forward to executing it. That’s really what it’s all about.”

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