GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For all the offseason buildup and debate, and all the questions and perspectives levied at Florida’s media day, the Gators’ quarterback competition formally commenced Thursday as the team opened fall camp with a pair of split-squad practices.
The veterans, including quarterback contenders Malik Zaire, Feleipe Franks and Luke Del Rio, went in the second session.
Franks worked with the first-team during the Gators’ opening “fastball” period, but there is nothing to read into that. Nor was there anything revelatory to be taken from the limited throwing session open to the media.
But the quarterbacks will remain the main storyline each and every day until coach Jim McElwain names a starter.
As for day one, he liked what he saw.
“Liked the way all the quarterbacks threw. It was a little shaky to begin with. You could tell some of the nerves, and yet as the practice wore on I thought we were very accurate in where we were going with the football,” he said. “There were some big plays made on the outside, and that’s a good thing. So we’ve just got to continue that moving forward.”
— Ryan Young (@RyanYoungSEC) August 3, 2017
McElwain said all three quarterbacks rotated in with the first team at points during practice and that the Gators’ use of two and three-spot drills will keep each significantly involved as camp moves forward.
While McElwain has had plenty of opportunity to evaluate Franks, a redshirt freshman who finished the spring atop the depth chart, and Del Rio, his 2016 season-opening starter, this was his first opportunity to see Zaire compete in practice.
The graduate transfer from Notre Dame has drawn praise from his new teammates for how quickly he’s picked up the offense and assimilated into the program. On Thursday, McElwain offered an encouraging critique of his own, highlighting how Zaire’s mobility was already on display in the first practice.
“You know what, he does really have some good feet. He’s got some real good pocket awareness. When it did break down, or I shouldn’t say as much break down as when the defense was not in their pass rush lanes, he actually made them pay a little bit,” McElwain said.
The competition has only just begun, though.