The Gators had their first real scrimmage on Friday and beforehand, Austin Appleby told the Florida media that he and Del Rio are both working hard to get the starting quarterback job,
“I think that we are very close,” Appleby said about the friendly competition between the two. “I think that both of us are executing at a very high level. I think there is always room for improvement for the entire offense. Coach Mac and the staff are all over us every day to push us to play the way we are capable of playing. We are capable of being pretty prolific and now it it’s just us doing it every single time. We can’t have that one mistake that will come back and bite you in big games. We eliminate those and it is all about consistency. That’s going to be the biggest thing for us moving forward.
While Del Rio has the positive reinforcement of having been in the offense last year at practice and a year when he was a part of the Doug Nussmeier offense at Alabama, Appleby feels like he has worked quite a bit of reps to really familiarize with the things he needs to be able to do to succeed.
“Each and every day it gets a little bit clearer,” he said about pulling the strings on what they hope to be a more dynamic offense in 2016. “Every time we run the play and see it one more time. The first five times through it we’re just trying to understand where to go, now that we’re on rep 60-70-80, you understand where guys are going to be, where they’re going to break off. You understand your personnel and where they’re going to end up. You’ve seen those looks before from the defense so you can get to the hot routes quicker.
“The more you do it and more you’re in those positions and in the environment where you have to play quickly… coaches stretch us, we’re always in the toughest look possible in practice. Then when we get to the scrimmages and ultimately get to play on Saturdays, we just go play fast and react to the defense and we can perform."
It is clear when you listen to Appleby, he is mature beyond most of his teammates. That makes a lot of sense since he is a fifth year senior and has played a good bit of high level college football.
He understands that in order for him to take the helm of the offense, there are quite a few things he has to improve on.
“Just continuing to improve every day,” he answered when asked where he needs to work on his craft. “Continuing to grasp this offense, continuing to dial in my feet, my eyes, and eliminate the clutter. There are so many things we have to address at our position… the blitz, the fronts, the checks, you name it. Once the ball is in our hands, it’s just football.
“You have to eliminate all the clutter, see through all the things that are uncontrollable that will blur your vision and just focus on that read and make the extremely sophisticated, extremely simple. When you can make things simple you can play fast and play decisive and when you can be decisive, you play confident. When we’re confident, we perform at a very high level.”
There is some comfort level for Appleby knowing that basically the entire offense has been installed and he is just grinding through those 60 to 80 repetitions in order for things to just come natural and play fast.
"We've had everything in that we've installed throughout the spring, throughout all the summer and then the first couple practices,” he said. “We pretty much have our whole system in now. It's just wrinkles here or there and then situational things like goal line, short yardage, the two-minute drill stuff. Everything's in; now it's just about building that chemistry and executing at the level that we're capable of doing. There're always things to get fixed and cleaned up, but all in all, I'm happy with the way that our guys go out and compete each and every day. Every practice is so competitive that every play is grueling in the sense that if you're not at your best, you're going to get beat -- that's from top to bottom, offense, defense. And that's the kind of atmosphere that you want because all it is is making us better."
While it is a battle so to speak, Appleby is excited about the team and believes the offensive guys are coming together rather well to make things exciting, whoever the quarterback might be.
"We all work extremely hard,” he said about all the quarterbacks competing every day. “We're all very well prepared. I think we have the respect of our teammates and I think that they all believe in us. Again, it doesn't matter who's in at our position, it doesn't matter who's in at any position. There's so much depth, so much trust, there's such chemistry and a bond from top to bottom that we can operate at a high level. That's what's so exciting about this team and this offense is you really just plug in a guy and nobody skips a beat. That's something that our room is definitely excited about and I think our offense is too."
The scrimmage was looming. Friday and McElwain said it would go a long way in shaping the depth chart. While it is pretty clear that no matter what happened in the scrimmage Friday Appleby and Del Rio would be the front runners at quarterback, the scrimmage is the first major test for the two.
"I think every day is pivotal,” he said of the practices they work through. “You just go out there and try to be the best that you can be. I don't think that one day, one play, one practice is going to determine anything. I think it's about a body of work. If you come in here and you be the same guy every day, you put your eyes and your feet in the right place, you have the right process and control the things you can control and trust your preparation and everything takes care of itself. This is absolutely a big day for us and we're excited."
And it sounds like well prepared.null