With the most early enrollees and new players added to the roster this semester than in any spring before, spring practices at Florida in 2016 are going to be some of the most competitive we have seen. Here are some observations from day one from the short time we were allowed to watch.
The guys that we thought would be ahead of the game were ahead of the game. Luke Del Rio is an older player that has been in the system for a year even though he had to sit out a year ago from transfer. Del Rio showed the most poise of the group and threw the ball well during the times we were watching. Graduate transfer Austin Appleby also looked poised. He did throw an interception during the early period, but both of these older guys have assertive mindset they are looking for.
The two young guys, Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask are in their first semesters on campus, but both showed strong arms although Franks was a little erratic on a couple of throws.
Not many programs are going to have a trio of backs that look like junior Mark Thompson and sophomores Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite. You don’t get much without contact out here, but the comments from head coach Jim McElwain were very complimentary after practice indicating how physical Thompson runs and how fast the two Jordan’s practiced because they knew what they were doing.
While we want the young guys to have a fast start it is really difficult when they have so much to learn. The one receiver that really showed well is senior Ahmad Fulwood. Fulwood is someone that McElwain called out as a player that needs to show up in 2016. He's big, has good speed after he gets going, he's strong, and has a lot of the tools they want in a receiver. He’s off to a good start and needs to keep it going.
Again another position you can’t get much out of until the pads come on, but you can see some growth or body changes out there. One that was noticeable was redshirt freshman guard Brandon Sandifer who looked noticeably in better shape running around out there. Guards Tyler Jordan and Antonio Riles were the starters on day one, but depth is something they really need to develop along the offensive line.
There were lots of guys really looking the part along the defensive line. Redshirt freshman Jabari Zuniga may be the guy that I am most interested to see line up and hurt someone on Saturdays. Listed in the 260’s he is chiseled and big. Keivonnis Davis has put on good weight and was working with the RUSH ends during part of the positional drills. Khairi Clark was demonstrating maybe some new found quickness as he was pounding on the blocking sled, at his size with some quickness that would be a great thing. If Zuniga wasn’t the most impressive, maybe redshirt junior Jordan Sherit was. He looks like he has put on some really good weigh as of late. While McElwain talked about the weight Jordan Smith has added, he looked a little too slim at this point to make a difference. Being able to add the weight is a good thing.
Passing the eyeball test at linebacker was David Reese for sure. He runs really smooth for a guy his size and has the size to bring some pain when he meets the ball carrier. Redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson who was just moved from safety also looks the part, but not as heavy as Reese. The last, who was a real surprise, was redshirt freshman Rayshad Jackson.
With two true freshmen trying to make their mark by arriving early on campus Chauncey Gardner is a guy that really showed he wasn’t scared to compete and maybe make a mistake or two in his first day. Jalen Tabor was his usual self, making plays through out. I saw sophomore corner Chris Williamson with a pass break up on a play he was overly aggressive and got burnt by junior receiver C.J. Worton. Williamson showed great make up speed by batting the ball away at the last second. But his aggressiveness is a big step in the right direction for his development. Junior Duke Dawson was getting work at corner and NICKEL. Corner would be a new position for him. Nick Washington had the most productive outing of the safeties, picking off Appleby in the early periods.
The Gators practice again Friday so stay tuned as we bring you more.