Florida Gators Fall Camp News and Notes, Backfield Competition Heating Up

By  //  August 25, 2016

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starting QB Del Rio looks good in scrimmage

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GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA (FloridaGators.com)–The Gators returned to practice Tuesday tonight after taking the day off Monday on the first day of fall classes in Gainesville.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain said the team will practice at night on Tuesday and Wednesday and then return to their usual in-season afternoon slot on Thursday. McElwain spoke to reporters earlier this afternoon for the first time since Friday’s scrimmage and touched on several topics, including freshman tailback Lamical Perine from Theodore, Ala.

While there is stiff competition for playing time in the backfield with sophomores Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite, junior-college transfer Mark Thompson and fifth-year senior Mark Herndon on the roster, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Perine has not gone unnoticed.

McElwain said Perine had a good performance in Friday’s scrimmage and continues to improve his chances for playing time.

Jim McElwain
Jim McElwain

“None of those things will be determined until after the fourth game anyway,” McElwain said.

“He is a guy that runs with great pad level. He is slippery in there. Guys bounce off him, he’s really strong and he’s got a great stiff arm. He’s done some really good things.”

Here are other notable items in quick-hit fashion from McElwain’s press conference:

–Cronkrite was “banged up” in Friday’s scrimmage and is not expected back until Thursday. McElwain mentioned Cronkrite, offensive lineman Andrew Mike (unspecified injury, no timetable for return) and receiver C.J. Worton (foot, hopeful to return Thursday) in his run-down of injuries.

–Quarterback Luke Del Rio, named the season-opening starter on Thursday, had a good outing in Friday’s scrimmage.

“He definitely had a little bounce and that was good to see,” McElwain said. “We actually had some really good explosives, both in the run and pass games. We were able to put the ball downfield and Luke was a big piece of that.”

The downside offensively according to McElwain was three turnovers.

“We were able to get some really good situations to come up,” he said. “We had some turnovers, which we’re obviously not excited about. We’ve got to get better at that.”

–McElwain highlighted true freshman linebacker Vosean Joseph and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga as two young players who played well.

Vosean Joseph has really shown up every time we go out there. That’s really good news.”

–McElwain said two areas of focus near the end of preseason camp are narrowing down the depth chart at receiver and sorting out the rotation on the defensive line.

McElwain said Perine had a good performance in Friday’s scrimmage and continues to improve his chances for playing time. (Orange & Blue Crew Image)

–Redshirt freshman receiver Kalif Jackson, who has been unable to participate in camp due to an injury, remains with the team. “They are working him through the workouts there to maintain his stamina and the different things we need to do on that leg.”

–Despite the season-ending knee injury to offensive lineman Antonio Riles, McElwain sounded optimistic about the O-line’s overall depth and progress with young players such as Kavaris Harkless, Brandon Sandifer and Jawaan Taylor contributing.

As for the school-record 45 sacks allowed last season, McElwain sees improvement.

“I don’t see that being as big an issue for us, or at least it hasn’t been in camp,” he said. “I think we are markedly better at all the spots. We still need to footwork-wise – at times we’re going sideways – to make sure we control the line of scrimmage and not let the line of scrimmage control us. I think we’ve got some answers.”

Redshirt freshman center T.J. McCoy has also improved and shown signs of being able to play meaningful snaps. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he does a great job of quickness off the ball,” McElwain said. “He’s able to get underneath some guys’ pads and play with pad level; consistency in the snap is what we’re looking for there.”

–Kicker Eddy Pineiro went 4-for-4 in high-pressure situations at a recent practice and punter Johnny Townsend, despite a sprained thumb, has looked solid in camp. McElwain also is pleased at the overall timing of the special-team units on field goal and punts, mentioning the timing between Townsend and long snapper Ryan Farr.

“I see a real comfort there between the kickers and the holder,” McElwain said. “Our operation time is actually a couple of clicks better than it was a year ago.”

Redshirt sophomore kicker Jorge Powell, a walk-on who suffered a season-ending knee injury last season at LSU and missed the rest of the season, is handling onside kickoffs.

“He doesn’t take plays off. He just plays the game and practices with such a sense of urgency,” said head coach Jim Mcelwain of Bryan Cox Jr.

–Fifth-year senior defensive lineman Bryan Cox Jr. is setting a good example during camp. Cox is also taking snaps at fullback in short-yardage goal-line situations. He appeared on offense multiple times a season ago in those situations.

“He doesn’t take plays off. He just plays the game and practices with such a sense of urgency,” McElwain said. “It’s somebody that our young guys have been able to look at and say this is how you go about your practice habits.”

–Junior cornerback Teez Tabor was active on social media over the weekend, first by providing a homeless man with a pair of shoes and a few bucks. Tabor then posted some nebulous tweets on Saturday that seemingly inspired a response by teammate C’yontai Lewis. Tabor has since de-activated his account.

Tabor and Lewis, suspended by McElwain last week after they had a physical altercation at practice, are expected to return to practice Thursday. As for their social-media activity, McElwain’s response to a question:

“I don’t have any thoughts. I’m confused. I really don’t even know what you’re asking.”

–We continue to hear a lot about junior-college transfer receiver Dre Massey as someone to watch this season. Massey is projected to start at receiver and share kickoff duties with Brandon Powell. McElwain said having Massey and Powell together on the field is a weapon the Gators hope to capitalize on.

VIDEO: Jim McElwain Announces Luke Del Rio As Gators Starting Quarterback For Week 1Related Story:
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“I think the thing about him is his versatility to do a lot of different things, everything from punt, to throw, to carrying it out of the backfield. He’s one of those guys you can use out of a lot of different situations,” McElwain said of Massey. “Getting both of those guys on the field at the same time is going to be important for us.”