GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There’s not much to take away from the first day of spring football.
The team is in shorts with no pads and just installing a few basic formations.
But standing on Florida’s practice field, you can’t help but notice the size of the quarterbacks being coached by offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. The Gators are much bigger at the position height-wise, with three players standing 6-foot-4 or taller.
“They’re a large group,” receiver Ahmad Fulwood said. “You can see the trend that’s going on over there with those guys.”
However, it was the shortest QB, redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio, who showed the most confidence with the offense and impressed UF coach Jim McElwain.
“He does a great job as a leader,” McElwain said of the 6-foot-1 Del Rio. “I think there’s a lot of intangibles there. Not only is he a good quarterback, but just the qualities you want at that position. You can tell he spent a lot of time around the game.”
Linebacker Jarrad Davis has been a fan of Del Rio since he transferred to Florida in 2015.
“I love Luke Del Rio,” Davis said. “I’ve been watching him work out throughout the winter and I’m watching him do his thing out there today. He looked natural and very comfortable.
“He’s not a guy that’s really going to panic. He’s real laid back and he’s dropping back in the pocket real smooth with everything that he does. His reads are perfect. He does a lot of things to separate himself from other guys on the team.”
Del Rio’s biggest competition is graduate transfer Austin Appleby, who started 11 games at Purdue over the past two years. Fulwood said Appleby has a lot of the same qualities as Del Rio.
“I think he’s a little more athletic,” Fulwood said of Appleby. “He still can spin it. Smart guy. Makes good decisions with the ball, too. So with Mac and Nuss back there coaching those two guys, it’s going to be a tight race for them.”
Florida has started a freshman at quarterback in each of the last three seasons. McElwain is excited about the experience and knowledge both signal callers bring to the table.
“Just to see the command, you can tell they’ve got a little something. They’ve done it before,” said McElwain, who added that Appleby and Del Rio are still walk-ons. “Obviously in Austin’s case, he’s played in a heck of a league and in some real big stadiums. Practice was not too big for him. I think in Luke’s case he’s been awful hungry to get out here, and he showed he was ready.”
The tallest players at the position are true freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, two of 12 early enrollees in January. McElwain liked what he saw from them in the passing game.
“The ball came out pretty good and I was happy to see those two young guys,” McElwain said. “They have live arms, did a couple good things in some of the drills and you can see it’s really important to them.
“To see the growth of those guys at that position is something that’s awful fun to see. These two guys are good friends. You see them communicating, looking at each other’s notes. That’s really what it’s all about. They’ve got some real talent. Now we’ll see if we can get it between their head a little bit.”