"It was great to get back out," said Jim McElwain on Tuesday after Florida's first spring practice. The Gators head coach was not just happy to be out on the field again, he was happy to see his players retained much of what they learned from last year - so much so in fact that the team is ahead of schedule.
"It was great to see the carry over from a lot of young guys," said McElwain. "As you look roster wise, we are relatively young in age and yet we've got some experience, and yet you can see that a lot of the guys really carried through on that, and I was really excited about the tempo in which they practiced, the way they attacked it and really the way they helped each other get better -- the competition part was fantastic. And that's exciting to see."
One competition McElwain and fans are monitoring closely is the one brewing at quarterback. With Luke Del Rio sidelined, all eyes are on both Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and early enrollee Kadarius Toney, who took some reps at quarterback as well.
"All three quarterbacks took a bunch of reps, threw it to our guys most of the time, occasionally threw it to the other guys," said McElwain. "Overall those guys handled what we had in good, and we were actually able to be a little ahead in install. So that was a good thing as well. We were able to show a bunch of different formational things and yet run the base attack. That shows me they had a really good offseason and really an understanding coming from last fall into this spring, which was good."
Franks had a good opening drive to fastball. Although the signal caller did miss his opening pass, he regrouped and ended the drive with a nice deep pass to Tyrie Cleveland in the corner of the endzone.
"Those guys aren’t afraid to throw the ball down the field, no doubt about it," said McElwain about the touchdown. "We’ve got a couple guys that can chase it down. That’s’ fun to see expect it’s not fun to see that your safety didn’t have depth and we were able to get over the top. With that being said, obviously, I think we’ve got a chance to really push the ball down the field.”
Although McElwain has seen improvement from his young quarterbacks, Trask and Franks, he expects to see a few improvements this spring.
“I think probably the biggest thing is structurally he and Kyle get locked in a little bit instead of getting off into their reaction to their number three. Right now they’re still zoning in on one too much. We’ll keep working on it and I thought we did some good stuff with the RPO stuff today in the pass game. We’ll see how that kinda helps them too.”
Another new face is found in the midst of the offensive line. New offensive line coach Brad Davis is taking the field with the Gators for the first time, however, Davis will have a lot of veteran pieces to work with. According to to McElwain, the offensive line has come along way from his first spring two years ago.
"I tell you what, it's night and day out there," said the Gators head coach. "Here's what was good, is the energy in which they went to the line of scrimmage, they communicated, they played fast, they got in between plays and, you know, it was good to see.
"I think part of that has to do with, even their age, they've grown up and had to grow up fast and understand the expectation of what we want," he added. "So operations and all that kind of stuff, it was fun to go practice, it was fun to see them out there."
Although we expected a few Gators to be sidelined on Tuesday, there were some additional players that did not feature on day one.
Odds and Ends
On Antonio Callaway and the benefit of spring practice for him
"It was interesting, you look at his body now, even just having the offseason that he's been able to have has been really, really good. This is his first spring ball, and to see how he attacked it out there, just having him out there is kind of that security blanket a little bit when you take him and a guy like Powell and then where Tyrie is right now and you throw in Josh Hammond and it was really good to see Dre Massey. There's some guys out there that, you know, we were pressing the field pretty good and they were getting up the field. That's good to see. We've got Florida speed out there."
Marcell Harris interception on day one
"It was good to see Marcell get an interception on a naked route, which he did a great job reading his keys so I was excited to see that."
On not having David Reese
“Well I tell you what it does. It really makes Vosean and KC step up in what they have to do. Both seeing him out there, and even seeing Luke (Del Rio) during some of the team drills and communication piece, that’s been really good.”
Martez Ivey playing at left tackle
“Yeah, you know he stepped out there, I forget which game it was, and did a great job. I think it’s natural for him. The thing we gotta do is really solidify a cuple of those inside spots. Brett Heggie had a good day today and Nick Buchannan, I’m proud of him. He played hard in there too.”