Gators' Spring Football: Complete overhaul at quarterback

By now it isn’t a secret that there will be a change at quarterback for the 2016 season. Looking for a strong armed signal caller that fits more with the style of play that Jim McElwain wants to establish at Florida, there will be four new arms in the fall eligible to compete and all will also be here in the spring.

With an offense that finished 110th in the country in 2015, the Florida football staff is looking to make some drastic changes to what they will do. Change in personnel is at the top of that list and no other area is more evident about a change than at quarterback.

Will Grier left mid-season with his off-the-field issues and is now gone from the squad. It appears that Treon Harris, despite his heroic efforts at the position, will move to another position as well. Making room for competition between four new arms that were either not on campus a year ago or not able to compete at that point.

All four arms will be here this spring to compete and this is where we begin.  

Mr. Been There Done That

Brian Spurlock / USA TODAY Sports
 As we head into sorting ball, there is one guy in the quarterback unit that can point to time on the field and experience at the highest level of college football and that is Purdue graduate-transfer Austin Appleby (6-4, 238). Appleby comes to Florida with a strong arm, a good bit of mobility, and way more experience at the position in college football than anyone else in the unit.

At Purdue, Appleby played in 17 games and started 11. He threw for 2,077 yards and had 19 touchdowns to go along with 19 interceptions. Almost all of his stats came in the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

His big edge is experience, but he’s been helping out the young guys as well, something that is not lost on head coach Jim McElwain. He has to be considered one of the two front runners to begin the season as a starter at this point.

Mr. I’ve Waited My Turn

Scout
 Redshirt junior Luke Del Rio (6-1, 216) may have thought things went out the window for him when his head coach at Oregon State left the school before last season.  The son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio may have seen a glimmer of light open up for him when Jim McElwain was hired at Florida, but more importantly when McElwain hired offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and also brought in a secondary assistant of John Garrett. Nussmeier happened to be the offensive coordinator at Alabama where Del Rio walked on in 2013 and Garrett was the offensive coordinator at Oregon State in 2014.

The thing that Del Rio has going on for him more than any other is that he knows the offense hands down better than any other. Blessed with a very good arm, but lack of mobility, Del Rio is going to be that guy that stands in the pocket until he is ready to deliver the ball and not run out of there at the first sign of a break in protection.

There are some that say he was the best quarterback in practice a year ago when both Grier and Harris were around. That remains to be seen, but although nothing has been decided, I would look for Del Rio to be the first one taking snaps when spring rolls around and the hottest one in practice given his knowledge of the offense.

Mr. High School All-American With A Chip On His Shoulder

Allen Trieu / Scout
 What more could you ask for form a high school prospect than a guy that can make every throw, stands 6-foot-6 and can run like a gazelle in the open field?  Maybe a guy that comes to Florida with people questioning those skills and knows he can prove those people wrong.

Freshman Feleipe Franks (6-6, 214) comes to Florida as a US Army All-American who threw for 7,380 yards, 87 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in mainly three years as a starter at Crawfordville, Florida Wakulla High School. He literally can make all the throws, the deep outs, some touch on the ball on short throws, and has exceptional ability throwing the long ball.

He would be the tallest quarterback on campus since maybe Bobby Sabelhaus roamed the sidelines back in the Spurrier era of Florida football. He also ran the ball for a combined 670 yards and seven touchdowns in his final two years at Wakulla. He is a better athlete than anyone gives him credit for,

Franks will definitely compete for the starting job in the fall, but he will behind the older guys in terms of experience or just plain know how at this level.

Mr. Don’t Sleep On Me

Kan Li / Scout
 So you like an underdog? Meet freshman quarterback Kyle Trask (6-4, 230). The guy didn’t start for his own high school team, but he’s here to win a job. Throwing for most of his 1,820 yards in his last two years of high school in Manvel, Texas, the most impressive feats along those lines are the 17 touchdowns and yes, zero interceptions.

He’s got the big arm that scouts notice, much like OC Nussmeier who was in Texas recruiting and saw the young man compete in practice. Trask got an invitation to camp at Florida and did so. Nussmeier and McElwain liked him so much, they wanted to make sure he came back for Friday Night Lights a little over a month later. He returned on his own dime again and proceeded to wow the coaching staff to the point where he was offered a scholarship. He committed a few days later and that is where we stand.

In Trask you have a guy that you know is willing to wait his time as he was the backup at Manvel for a four-star dual threat quarterback that landed at TCU. We also know that he has the drive to compete or he wouldn’t have come to Florida. Just don’t sleep on this guy. 


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