GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Former Florida quarterback Austin Appleby has maintained a presence around the Gators’ practice field this spring, going through his own preparations while remaining hopeful for a chance to play professionally.
With Franks in particular, Appleby has an even deeper connection than he did before as the second-year QB has moved in with the former Gators starter and his other roommates this spring.
“I was away. I kind of came back and said, ‘Oh, hey Feleipe,’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, I moved in,’ ” Appleby recalled.
In addition to asking him questions around the house, Appleby says Franks has made use of his presence at spring practice too.
“When I come to practice, he’ll come over to me real quick like, ‘Hey man, how do I read this? What do you think? It’s the same thing it was when we were out on the field,” Appleby said.
That being said, Appleby thinks both Franks and Trask have made considerable strides in their command of the offense and all the pre-snap responsibilities that go into playing the position.
“(They have) all the arm talent in the world. You guys go out and see the way the ball comes out of their hands — it’s ungodly. Now they’ve got to learn to play the position,” Appleby said. “Throwing the ball 80 yards doesn’t necessarily mean you can play quarterback, and the way that they’ve grown and been able to grasp the complexity of Mac’s offense, of Nuss’ offense, through the reps, the only way to get it is doing the reps, getting that picture again and again and again and being able to figure out the things you’ve got to look at to get your eyes through the progression quick. …
“Now they’re in there with the opportunity to go with the 1s and 2s every single day. I think it’s the best thing for not only our coaching staff but for those young guys because this is their opportunity. We’re going to know where they’re at coming out of camp.”
Florida fans are hoping that outcome is a positive one as they pine for one of those young QBs to emerge as the future at the position for the Gators. They are getting every opportunity to seize that role with veteran Luke Del Rio, who split starts with Appleby last season, sidelined this spring while recovering from a pair of shoulder procedures.
Coach Jim McElwain said Franks and Trask looked good throwing the deep ball in a scrimmage last week, but there were some missed intermediate throws and an interception in the red zone.
Appleby, meanwhile, says the development he’s seen from the two since last season has been undeniable.
“I was really, really encouraged with the things that I saw. (They) didn’t even know how to call the Mike (linebacker) out when we first got here. (They) didn’t know how to call a play when we first got here,” he said. “And the way that they’ve taken it upon themselves to ask questions to me and Luke (Del Rio) while they were redshirting, to watch how we prepare, to watch just how we go about even interacting with the media, to the way that we deal with the training room to your teammates, there’s so much more than just going out and throwing balls. It’s growing up to be able to lead a program like this, and they are so much farther along than even I thought they might be. Watching them practice, they’ve got such a command and presence about themselves, and it’s only going to grow. So I’m really excited for them.”
Appleby, who started his collegiate career at Purdue before joining Florida last season as a graduate transfer, sympathized with the learning curve Franks and Trask faced as newcomers.
He says the complexity of the offense that McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier run puts more responsibility on the quarterback than a lot of college programs might.
It’s a learning process, and one in which he feels they’re making significant progress.
“It’s not like a spread offense where you just come in and you read the D-end and that’s it,” Appleby said. “You’ve got to be able to ID a Mike, you’ve got to be able to call hots out, you’ve got to be able to read middle-open, middle-closed defense and set your protections and read alerts and routes. There’s a lot going on. This is an NFL pro-style offense, and we don’t slow down. You’ve got to catch up and get with us, and the offense will go as the quarterback goes as much as we can handle. So it takes a year. … I wasn’t ready my redshirt year. I needed that year.”