GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Junior Quincy Wilson is one of the veterans on the Florida defense now, part of a cornerback tandem that should be one of the greatest strengths for the team and an emerging leader on a unit with significant expectations overall.
But his comments about the Gators offense Friday might be most encouraging for Florida fans.
While meeting with reporters prior to the team’s second day of preseason camp, Wilson didn’t hold back in sharing his early impressions of the Gators’ offensive playmakers and what that might mean for the team this season.
“We have better quarterbacks in here now. There’s no secret about that,” Wilson said. “So there’s a lot more chemistry and guys getting the ball. Everything’s looking good on the offensive side, and they’re coming along.”
Redshirt-sophomore Luke Del Rio and graduate transfer Austin Appleby are competing for the starting quarterback job and looking to bring stability to a position that had its issues on and off the field for the Gators last season.
That wasn’t all Wilson had to say, though.
“We’ve got some good receivers finally. Not saying that the other guys haven’t been … but the offense has been a little slow,” he said. “But Tyrie Cleveland, he’s been really good out there, Rick Wells also, (Josh) Hammond and those guys have been looking real well. I feel like the competition from them is making the (older guys) play better — Brandon Powell and Ahmad (Fulwood) and C.J. (Worton). They’ve all been picking it up and looking a lot better in practice.”
Cleveland and Wells are potential impact true freshmen, but they currently face two felony charges each for a BB gun incident. While they are practicing, their status for the season opener has not been determined.
As a follow-up to his praise for the young receivers, Wilson was asked if that means the Gators pass catchers are having more success against the secondary in practice. That prompted a smile from him.
“We’re still holding them down, but they’ve been getting better though,” he said.
As he spoke prior to the Gators’ second day of preseason camp, there had been only one split-squad practice to that point. But Wilson has as good a perspective as any on the offense after going up against it through the spring, in whatever offseason workouts the players organized and then the little time they had together on Thursday.
Redshirt-junior offensive linemen Cameron Dillard and Antonio Riles also met with reporters Friday and shared their own optimism for the unit — and for the quarterback position.
“I think Luke and Appleby, those are good leadership guys and they do a good job of leading us and leading the offense and running the offense well,” Riles said. “It’s exciting to see.”
Said Dillard, on his early impressions of the offense as a whole: “I think we came out with a lot more energy (Thursday). We came out a lot more fiery. We wanted to move around, fly around. It’s the first day, everybody’s excited, but if we can continue to keep that momentum going through the whole fall camp and things like that and carry that over to our first game I think that will be tremendous for our team.”
No concern about outside expectations
Redshirt-junior defensive tackle Caleb Brantley was asked the typical preseason question about respect or lack thereof as it relates to preseason polls.
Despite winning the SEC East last year, Florida was picked behind overwhelming favorite Tennessee in this year’s preseason conference poll, with the Vols receiving 225 first-place votes to the Gators’ 57.
“A lot of people never respected us, they don’t like us, so we kind of embrace that,” Brantley said. “We like that role. We don’t want you to like us. We really don’t care. If we handle what we’ve got to handle in house and do what we’ve got to do, I don’t think no one can beat us. So all that talk, it don’t do nothing but add fuel to the fire and make us work harder.”
Riles also shared his thoughts on the matter: “Those are predictions, you know. Tennessee’s a great team, we’ve got some great opponents in our conference, but you know, we got a great team. So we’ll see how it goes.”
Young players standing out in camp
Brantley was asked which of the team’s young players have made an impression on him so far and he named redshirt-freshman defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga and freshman defensive back Chauncey Gardner Jr.
Wilson also singled out Gardner, as well as freshmen defensive back Jeawon Taylor and Quincy Lenton.
“(Gardner has) been playing real well,” Wilson said. ” He came in as an early enrollee so he’s had more time to get ready, but also Jeawon and Quincy, they’ve been doing a good job also picking up the playbook and making plays out there.”
Riles, meanwhile, added more praise for freshman offensive linemen Brett Heggie and Jawaan Taylor, who head coach Jim McElwain had mentioned positively in his press conference Thursday.
“Yeah, I worked out with those guys specifically during the summer. I love their work ethic and the things that they do,” Riles said. “They came, they jumped right in, and it was as if they already knew what we were doing. So I’m excited about those two guys.”
Cleveland number change
After being listed as No. 2 in Florida’s media guide at SEC Media Days, Cleveland is now No. 89.
McElwain was asked Thursday if that was part of his discipline for his arrest.
“Guys, I don’t look at jersey numbers. I don’t know,” McElwain said. “There were a lot bigger consequences than a jersey, believe me.”