CAMP NOTES: Florida Gators Hit Halfway Mark Of Fall Camp, No Closer To A Starting Quarterback
By Scott Carter, Florida Gators Senior Writer // August 17, 2016
ABOVE VIDEO: The Florida Gators prepare during fall camp on August 11 for their upcoming season, which kicks off in just 17 days. (Video by InsidetheGators.com)
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA (FloridaGators.com) – Jim McElwain had the answer ready before the question was even asked. “No, I haven’t named a starter yet,” Florida’s head coach said.
McElwain knows interest is at a peak in the quarterback battle between Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby following the first scrimmage of preseason camp on Friday.
McElwain met with reporters late Monday afternoon soon after a sweltering practice at UF’s lacrosse stadium. McElwain did not give a timetable for the decision in his first press conference since the scrimmage, but promised when he is ready to announce a starting quarterback, he won’t keep it a secret.
He offered mostly a positive review of Del Rio’s and Appleby’s performance in the 118-snap scrimmage Friday inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. “I thought both quarterbacks … had their moments and had some other moments that we need to get cleaned up a little bit,” McElwain said.
“I really liked Luke in the red area, I thought he was really good. He did take a two-minute drive and stuff it in the end zone.
“I thought Austin handled just the team move-the-field [drills] and especially our RPO [run-pass option] stuff. I thought he handled that better during the play of the scrimmage. Both of them had their moments. We’re moving the ball pretty well. That’s what makes me kind of excited.”
While Del Rio and Appleby have taken the majority of the reps in camp, true freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask have shown improvement since they joined the program in January as early enrollees.
“I’m really happy with those guys,” he said. “They continue to grow and it’s fun to watch those guys progress.”
In addition to evaluating the quarterbacks closely in the scrimmage, McElwain said the Gators were able to rotate many of the younger players into the rotation. He highlighted both sophomore running backs vying for carries, Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett.
Cronkrite has shown ability to be an every-down back in camp according to McElwain, and Scarlett broke off multiple long runs. McElwain added that junior offensive lineman David Sharpe continues to display his leadership ability on a line that needs a strong voice.
“I like this team. I like these guys. We’re starting to show some leadership on offense and we’re seeing some good sparks there. That’s a good thing.”
Sophomore receiver Antonio Callaway’s status for the season opener remains uncertain. Callaway has dealt with an off-the-field issue since January that has been handled by the University of Florida.
“I’m part of the university and I follow their lead,” McElwain said.
Callaway was not with the team during the spring but was allowed to return to campus by UF in June. In light of revelations made public by the media on Friday about Callaway’s case, McElwain didn’t have much to offer Monday other than to address Callaway’s handling of the situation.
“He has dealt with a lot, obviously, not being allowed on campus, not being part of the family, not being a part of what we can do to help, be supportive,” McElwain said.
“There was a lot of time to sit and think and really look down deep inside of you and say what am I learning from this. What have I seen? I think time will tell.”
McElwain said part of his job is to educate players to make good choices and when a player has issues, to try and help them resolve those issues in a positive way. If the player is unable to, then there will be additional consequences.
“If it becomes habitual, then there are some consequences,” he said.
“But at the same time, through the stuff we do, through the education piece, I’m here to help them. I’m here to make sure that if there is something there that isn’t a one-off, but obviously is something is going to be a huge problem … I truly am here to help these guys learn, grow, become better fathers when they grow up, help society and help their communities. That’s something we’ll do.”
ROLIN MOVES ON
Redshirt junior linebacker Matt Rolin’s career never got off the ground with the Gators. A four-star recruit coming out of Ashburn, Va., Rolin tore the ACL in his left knee as a true freshman and missed the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Rolin played in three games last season, making a career-high eight tackles in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.
However, Rolin informed coaches last week that he planned to leave the team and focus on graduating.
“He’s kind of lost the love for the game. He’s going to stay and graduate, should be done actually this semester if he chooses to use his time right,” McElwain said.
“That’s kind of the goal for him. He wasn’t really into it, but at the same time he saw he was taking reps from some of the young guys that have been showing some promise. For him, and the injuries he’s had, he’s just chosen that maybe there’s something else in his life.”
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Rolin was projected as a reserve behind Jarrad Davis andAlex Anzalone. With his departure, McElwain said freshmen linebackers David Reese,Vosean Joseph and Jeremiah Moon are expected to factor into the plans more.
“Those guys will play a lot of snaps for us, even on special teams,” he said.
Redshirt freshman LB Kylan Johnson left Monday’s practice with lower-back spasms and is not expected to miss significant time. Cornerback Quincy Wilson (ankle), OL Kavaris Harkless (unspecified), OL Nick Villano (unspecified), DB Duke Dawson (hamstring) and walk-on DL Tanner Rowell (foot) were held out of practice Monday.
McElwain said the Gators will keep a close eye on Johnson, who has been impressive in picking up formations and making pre-snap adjustments since moving from safety in the offseason.
“He had been making huge strides,” McElwain said. “We need him obviously to get healthy but at the same time he is going to be a really good player here.”
Florida Fan Day is scheduled Saturday at 2 p.,.at the indoor practice facility.
The Gators have a two-a-day practice on Tuesday, are off Wednesday, return to practice Thursday and have their second scrimmage on Friday.
McElwain said Friday’s scrimmage will be at night to acclimate the team to a night-game environment … About five minutes after the Gators left the field Monday, a lightning strike hit the ground on the lacrosse field and left a scorch mark.
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