For Austin Appleby there is no change. He is going into this week of practice believing he will be the guy at the helm of the offense, whether that happens or not.
"I think you always anticipate starting,” He said on Monday. “The preparation doesn't change. I'm looking forward to a great week of practice, a great week of preparation. We’ve got a big game on Saturday, a great opponent coming in The Swamp. We're ready to push the tempo and get these guys ready to have a great performance."
As of now, he doesn’t know who will be the guy.
“I'm sure it's probably a question for coach Mac,” he said. “The only thing that we can take care of is the way that we come out and practice, the way that we prepare. I'm sure as soon as I know something, so will you."
Although Appleby wants to be the guy taking snaps under center, he is happy that Del Rio is close to returning to full speed. As we have seen since his arrival, Appleby has loved the competition part of the job here at Florida.
“I’m excited for him,” he said. “He’s my teammate. You know, I’m a Luke Del Rio fan. Again, it’s not me versus Luke. He’s a guy that I think can help us win a championship just like I think I’m a guy that can help us win a championship, just like Brandon Powell is a guy that can help us win a championship. Callaway, Sharpe. We are all one team. We’re trying to go somewhere special and it’s going to take all of us.
“His impact in our locker room, his impact on the field is huge. Just same as I have the responsibility to be that same guy that Feleipe does, that Kyle Trask does, that Nick Sproles does. Everybody’s got a job to do and it’s going to take all of us to win on Saturday and it’s going to take all of us to win a championship."
Appleby is adamant that the imminent return of Del Rio won’t affect his play.
“I don’t think it can,” he said. “You know, I think everybody on this team has a responsibility to play and to prepare to their very best, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of depth, regardless of whatever, for me to work less hard or put any added pressure on myself because of whatever it may be is cheating my teammates, cheating my coaching staff, and cheating Gator Nation. I’ve got to prepare the same way, got to prepare to be out there. As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to play unless I’m told otherwise. So with that said, I’ve got to have a great week of practice and be ready to go.”
Appleby understands that if he wants to remain on the field, he will have to play well. Despite that, the number one objective is to win the ball game, whoever is on the field.
“You want to play, so you’re going to play to your very best,” he said. “It’s not me against Luke. It’s me against the defense. We both have a job to do. It’s not like we’re against each other. People want to make it Austin versus Luke. It’s not that. It’s never been that. We support each other. It’s about our position group being the very best it can possibly be to help the Gators win on Saturdays. Regardless of whose number is called, both of us want our number to be called. He wants to be healthy, he wants to be out there, and I want to be out there and playing. Because we both think we’re the one that gives our team the best chance to win. It’s not he versus me. It’s not that. It’s about pushing yourself to get a little bit better every day, as Coach Mac says. There are a lot of good things that I put on tape, a lot of things that I’ve got to clean up. Nevertheless, it’s about moving forward, taking the positives from it, and getting a little bit better. We will.”
Florida head coach Jim McElwain said he felt for the first time in a long while his team was a little uptight and tentative on Saturday. Appleby wants to be one of those that can help change that mindset.
“We always talk about affecting your teammates in a positive way,” he said. “You know, if that’s done, just keeping guys positive, pushing the tempo. You’ve got to get these guys lined up, get them moving, and get the energy. You talk about being a thermostat instead of a thermometer. A guy that brings the heat as opposed to one who maybe feeds off of other people. Be the one who guys feed off of. That’s the responsibility of our whole room. We talk about it when guys come in every single day with that energy, that standard, and not let people dip below what our standard is. It starts with our room, and we've got to do a better job. We will do a better job and our offense as a whole will be all right this week.”
Appleby entered the media room on Monday with his ankle wrapped but brushed it off as a Monday morning regular thing for any player. His mindset is on LSU now a really big game for the Gators and their season. He wants his teammate to approach this one like any other game.
“I don’t know about the pressure,” he said. “Guys just have to relax and go make plays. We’ve got all the talent in the world in our offensive room. We’ve just got to make it simple and go out there and do what we do and bring that energy, play to our standard. We’ll flash like we do time and time again of being prolific, being unstoppable because we’re capable of it. We know we are. I think because we have that expectation for ourselves, and we know how good we can be, good things don’t go quite so well to start, we can’t start looking around like what’s going on. We’ve just got to keep moving forward, make our corrections and just go play and have fun. I think if we go have fun and play the way that we’re capable of playing and just truly enjoying being out there, we’ll be ready to go.”