I will gladly admit that I had my reservations about Luke Del Rio as the quarterback at Florida. My thought process revolved around the fact that he walked on at Alabama and then sat on the bench at Oklahoma State. It didn’t help that he wasn’t recruited much here when he came out of high school.
If there is draw back so far it’s that we didn’t see him throw the ball down the field much at all. The upside to me is that almost every practice that we watched, he was clearly the leader of the quarterback group.
Depth at receiver…
One thing the staff is really working on is trying to ‘turnover’ the receiver unit and make it a more talented group overall. They certainly have added some great pieces in the last two years.
Last year it was all Antonio Callaway, with a dash of Demarcus Robinson, and then Brandon Powell when he was healthy. Powell was out for the spring because of injury, Callaway was out for off the field reasons. Both are expected back in the fall.
Joshua Hammond and Freddie Swain were constantly seen making plays this spring. They came in ready to compete and have the skills to get on the field in a big way in 2016.
It goes beyond that as well. Senior Ahmad Fulwood had a strong spring, he was injured for the spring game a couple of weeks ago, but they are expecting more. Then there is junior C.J. Worton who may be turning the page on the things that have kept him off the field. He’s an explosive player that may just have his coming out party in 2016.
When you add this group to Callaway and Powell, and then bring in Rick Wells and Tyrie Cleveland in June, you really almost have a completely remade receiver unit that should add a lot to the offense in the fall.
While I don’t think the combo of junior Jordan Sherit and Keivonnis Davis are quite as explosive as Alex McCalister off the edge, think they will be plenty to help with the loss of the future NFL pass rusher.
On the other side, we already knew what we were getting in veteran Bryan Cox. He’s a guy that will make plays and be steady out there. They expect a big year out of him. Redshirt freshman Jabari Zuniga wasn’t talked a whole lot about this spring, but he was solid and had a nice spring game putting pressure on the backfield.
CeCe Jefferson will play outside and inside and we know he can make some plays up front. That trio should hold up well in 2016.
The Gators have had two 1,000-yard backs in the last 11 years and Kelvin Taylor left after last season as one of them. Maybe Taylor wasn’t a home run type of back, but he was steady and never fumbled the ball in his entire career. He stayed healthy last year and that helped pile on the carries and yards.
That also kept the ball away from others.
Both guys excelled this spring. Cronkrite seemed to stay the leader of sorts maybe because of his versatility, but both will play.
We also got reassurance this spring that junior college transfer Mark Thompson can play. He runs hard with his 242 pounds, but he also has the ability to cut and make people miss. One added dimension is the speed for a guy that big. So, he can take it the distance as well.
A former receiver, Thompson can also catch the ball out of the backfield. He has to lose the fumblitis that he has shown, but he’s one they really like.
Senior Mark Herndon also impressed enough to get on the field in the fall. He has a bit of speed, can cut well, and he can catch the ball as well. He’s an added bonus this spring they weren’t counted on.
Competition in quarterback ranks…
It is one of the more important things we needed to see this spring in my book. We have established Del Rio as the leader in the clubhouse at quarterback, but the push behind him needs to be there.
While I believe Austin Appleby sits second on the list as a senior graduate transfer, the two freshmen quarterbacks have shown enough to know they will learn fast and be on the heels of Appleby. This will push Appleby and in turn keep pushing Del Rio to get better.
I believe in the perfect world, either Del Rio or Appleby will be the guy in the fall and then they would play one of the true freshmen Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask in order to get some separation between the two class-wise. All of this competition will only help that as well.