Jim McElwain Impressed By Energy, Quarterbacks on Day One of Florida Spring Practice

GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- Florida head coach Jim McElwain seemed very happy with his team's energy after the Gators' first practice this spring. McElwain also praised his quarterbacks, in particular Luke Del Rio, and his early enrollees.

Florida football started its spring schedule on Wednesday afternoon. Here is a quick glance of some of the top headlines coming out of day one of spring ball.

Energy Up; McElwain Wants More 

The young blood on the roster certainly injected a new energy and urgency to the team, as the first whistle blew. 

"What a great day out there," said head coach Jim McElwain after practice.  "Just to see the energy of all the young guys, and how they kind of affected some of the older guys. It was great to see some of the coaching going on, on both sides of the ball." 

The veterans on the team certainly welcomed the newcomers with open arms, however, McElwain hopes that experience pays off. Last season the team also started spring practice well but saw things drop off towards the end. 

"I told them afterward that I hope they have the same energy on practice twelve," he explained.  "You're obviously out there with just helmet and underwear and guys running around pretty good. We will see how it goes and to see if we can sustain it. I think one of the things that hit us last year was we didn't finish, and we didn't sustain. To me these practices has to be one of those deals that we get a little bit better and we don't take a step back." 

Quarterback Question 

The men under center once again under the microscope. One quarterback, however, did earn plenty of praise from both the head coach and from his fellow players, Luke Del Rio

"I think one of the things I love about him is that he is kind of a gym rat kind of guy," stated McElwain. "You can tell that he obviously grew up around the game but he is a guy that enjoys watching film and around the guys he does a good job as a leader. There is a lot of intangibles there.

"Not only is he a good quarterback, but [he has] the qualities you want at that position. You can tell he spent a lot of time around the game."

McElwain recounted meeting Del Rio for the firs time as an eighth grader, during a camp in Colorado, where he began to see something special about the signal caller. 

"You can just tell the guy has something to him. There are a lot of things that have to go along with that, but there is a real confidence when the guy takes the field. He takes command of the huddle. I notice more so about how to play the position and it’s good to see. It is fun to see those guys working together, and it’s really cool to see those older guys taking the younger guys and teaching them how to go about being a quarterback and that’s something I think is really good."

McElwain's confidence in Del Rio is shared bby wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood

“I’ve known Luke since we played ball back in Jacksonville,” Fulwood said. “You could tell Luke I said this - when Episcopal played B.K. we beat the hell out of him, probably had four picks in the first half. Those are days I don’t like to remind him of because I know he’s gotten a lot better since then. I always tease him about that. We lived right down the street from each other, so we’re pretty close. On the field, he’s the same way. We just feed off of each other’s energy."

Although both guys were competitors in high school, it wasn't until Del Rio arrived in Gainesville did Fulwood finally learn more about the man under center. 

“Kid is smart,” Fulwood said. “He can make the passes. They didn’t have the playmakers we had on our defense, so that’s probably why he threw us a little bit more interceptions. But I will say, he brought back his team even though we still beat him. He did put his team in position to win. So I know he’s got some fight in him.”

All in all, McElwain was impressed by his two more experienced quarterbacks on Wednesday. 

"Just to see their command, you can tell they have done it before," said McElwain of both Del Rio and Austin Appleby.  "In Austin's case he has played in one heck of a league and in some real big stadiums, so practice was not too big for him. In Luke's case he has been awfully hungry to get out there and he showed he was ready."

But it wasn't just the veterans that impressed. The two freshmen early enrollees, Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask were also on point, according to the head coach. 

"Those two young guys got live arms," he said. "They did a couple of good things in some of the drills and you can see it is really important to them."

McElwain adds, "these two guys are good friends...You see them communicating and looking at each other’s notes. That is what it’s all about. They have some real talent and now we’ll see if we can get it between their heads a little bit."

The New Faces 

Speaking of new faces, Florida has plenty of new faces on the roster this spring, 12 of them in fact. One can argue one of the most noticeable on the field was running back Mark Thompson

"Thats an SEC back right there," said McElwain about the 6-foot-2, 228-pound Thompson. "He looks the part, but we will find out when we puts pads on, but I did even notice today when he was hitting a couple of inside zones, hitting a cutback and the guy that was kind of coming down questioned a little bit whether he could see a little bigger body there." 

Thompson was not the only newcomer to stand out. The new defensive backs, Chauncey Gardner and McArthur Burnett, held their own. 

"The good thing I saw is that it wasn’t too big for any one of them," said McElwain. "They were out there competing, having fun, they weren’t a step slow. They were reacting. Really what that says is that these guys came here on a mission and that is good to see." 

Although plenty of positives all around, McElwain admits there is still work to do to make sure all the young guys are up to par, especially at wide receivers where there are plenty of new guys. 

"I felt like we were probably a little behind at wide out, but obviously we have a lot of young guys taking reps there," he explained. "The good thing is you can see the talent. We just need to pick up the mental part of it, but you know some of these guys should still be going to their proms, and thats a good thing. We have a lot of time to work with them. But overall good day, it was a lot of fun being outside and really enjoyed it."

Medical Report 

  • Quincy Wilson- pulled out a little bit with the groin injury
  • Kalif Jackson-went down holding his leg (McElwain referred to a patella issue) 
  • Duke Dawson-"felt something in his foot"
  • Jordan Sherit- finished practice in the pit (left hamstring injury)



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