ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida is in the midst of its second quarterback competition in as many years.
In 2015, Treon Harris and Will Grier battled for the starting job from spring football until the third game of last season.
For this year’s competition, which features neither Harris (suspended) or Grier (transferred), UF coach Jim McElwain expects to identity the leader at quarterback once the Gators begin fall training camp.
“We’ll be able to see that when we get to camp,” McElwain said Wednesday at the Central Florida Gator Club. “You can see how guys kind of gravitate (to one player) and their reactions, how guys handle huddles and that type of deal. We’ll get a pretty good idea then.”
Redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio and graduate transfer Austin Appleby are the front-runners for the job. Del Rio came out of spring leading the race, but Appleby’s two years of experience as a starter at Purdue has kept him in contention.
The Gators are currently doing summer conditioning and player-run workouts, and McElwain said one of the quarterbacks will separate himself during this time.
“The quarterbacks have a lot to do with the organizational piece of what they’re trying to get done, especially as they’re organizing different position groups to go through what they need to,” McElwain said. “So, we’ll have a good idea when we get back who the guy’s been that maybe everybody is rallying around … the one that has really invested and pushed guys.
“I know it’s been really good to have what seems like an older guy in Luke and obviously an older guy in Austin, who’s been through it and seen how the expectation of it to be run. In Luke’s case, obviously had a taste of it at Alabama and was behind a really good guy at Oregon State, so he knows what exactly what the expectation is at that position.”
Part of the expectation is making big plays in the passing game, which Florida wasn’t able to do enough of last season. McElwain is confident both Del Rio and Appleby can make those throws, as well as true freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask.
“Obviously the big question is always the quarterback, which is the way it should be,” McElwain said. “I know this, we have really good arm talent and we can push the ball vertically. And I feel very optimistically we can do it on a consistent basis.
“Now time will tell, but they’ve all proven they can push the ball where it needs to go, especially in that 18- to 22-yard area where you need to hit the creases. So from that standpoint I’m excited about that group.”
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow @ZachAbolverdi