GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida formally opens fall camp Thursday afternoon with a pair of split-squad practice sessions as the coaches first take a look at the Gators’ rookies before bringing in the veterans.
The message to both groups is the same, though.
“This camp is going to be uncomfortable for our guys,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “It’s going to be something where there’s going to be a lot of things stressed as simple as sweating every small detail. There is no detail small enough to be overlooked. It’s going to be hard, and that’ll be intentional.”
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Florida is coming off back-to-back SEC East titles and 19 wins during McElwain’s first two seasons in Gainesville.
The spotlight in camp will shine squarely on the Gators’ quarterback competition between graduate transfer Malik Zaire, redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks and 2016 starter Luke Del Rio.
On the defensive side, the biggest storyline is in the secondary. The Gators lost three second-round draft picks in cornerbacks Quincy Wilson, Jalen “Teez” Tabor and safety Marcus Maye, and then lost senior safety Marcell Harris last month to a season-ending torn Achilles tendon.
With six freshmen defensive backs set for their first practice Thursday, that competition figures to be every bit as intriguing.
In general, competition is the key word for McElwain this preseason.
“I think if there was one thing that I would say about this year’s camp that may be a little bit different than in the past is the true competition at so many position groups,” he said. “It’s something that we were looking for. Our roster is, on balance, pretty darned close. You know, we’ve got a really good group numbers-wise at all the different spots, which is going to allow us to practice the way we expect to practice and like to practice as we prepare our guys moving forward.
“I’m really looking for us to take the next step to where the uncomfortable becomes comfortable.”
Check back at SEC Country for updates from practice and from McElwain’s post-practice media session.