GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If anybody was hoping for a formal resolution on Florida’s quarterback competition anytime soon, well, it doesn’t seem like that is in the works.
Gators head coach Jim McElwain was asked Monday after practice if it was too early to assume that redshirt-sophomore Luke Del Rio will be the starter.
“Yeah, I think so. Let’s see, we’ve had two practices in underwear, two practices in some shoulder pads and one in a torrential downpour. So, yeah I don’t think it’s there,” McElwain said. “I’d say the last two practices he made a couple mistakes that were unacceptable for the way that we expect the position to be played. And so, we’ve got a ways to go. Good thing we’ve got practice.”
Del Rio is competing with Austin Appleby, a graduate transfer from Purdue, for the job after both 2015 quarterbacks, Will Grier and Treon Harris, left the program.
McElwain’s response to that direct question was predictable, as it would not be in his style to give anything away this early.
But more interesting, perhaps, was what else he had to say on the topic.
Pressed further if he wanted to avoid going into the start of the season with the position unsettled as it was last year, McElwain indicated that wouldn’t bother him much.
“No, I’m fine. Get somebody in there and go move the ball,” he said. “Quite honestly, I’m more worried about the people around (the quarterback). We’ve got to play better in the o-line. We do. We’ve got to play better at receiver from a consistency standpoint. And we’ve got to give the opportunity for those running backs to go make some plays. That’s my big concern right now.”
The Gators will ramp up preseason camp Tuesday with the start of two-a-days.
Redshirt-junior offensive lineman Antonio Riles Jr. went down with an unspecified leg injury in practice Monday.
“I have no idea how serious it is,” McElwain said.
Riles played in 11 games last season, starting the first six at right guard.
Senior wide receiver Chris Thompson sustained a hip injury Monday.
“It doesn’t seem serious. He just pulled himself out in the middle of practice,” McElwain said.
Thompson played in 13 games last season with two starts while totaling five catches for 48 yards.
“Other than that, we’re doing OK,” McElwain said on the injury front.
Playing through the weather
McElwain took the team outside in the rain Monday to see how the Gators would respond to a different challenge.
The outcome? Mixed results.
“We wanted to get outside and play in the elements a little bit. It’s kind of interesting when there’s distractions,” he said. “One of the things we talk about quite a bit, and we talked about it last year, is trying to create chaos where there’s other things going on that force you to focus on the details that help you with each individual play. And today, execution was not great at all.
“However, it was a great learning experience to understand you can’t allow external distractions in anything that you do (to) hinder your performance. I thought there was a little bit of that going on. I will say on a positive note, the guys … straining through practice and playing with energy was something that was really good.”
McElwain again offered praise for freshman offensive lineman Jawaan Taylor, along with sophomore Martez Ivey.
It’s clear, though, that he feels the unit as a whole still has a ways to go after giving up 46 sacks last year — the most of any FBS team.
“I think there’s some guys really starting to stand out, some guys that are not afraid to step up and kind of let the defense take it to them,” he said. “I think Martez Ivey is one of those guys. It’s a long ways to go, but (Jawaan) Taylor has proven that, you know what, he doesn’t care, he’s just going to go play hard. And we need to get some other guys up there to say, you know what, it’s okay to come off the ball and play with pad level and not maybe be passive, if that’s a good word.”
On the other side of the ball, McElwain touched on the potential he sees in sophomore defensive end CeCe Jefferson.
“He has been playing both spots, and he is a guy that you love being around him. He has a great smile and he is quick-witted. I just love that,” he said. “He is actually really playing well. I worry a little about his weight, because he is only really, yesterday he was 267. This guy is naturally really strong. He has really strong hands and a great first punch. There is no doubt why he was as highly recruited as he was. He has proven that to be true.”