With the Orange and Blue Debut in the rearview, the Florida Gators football team enters the doldrums of the offseason. The team will workout together through the offseason with the strength and conditioning staff but Jim McElwain and his coaching staff are solely focused on recruiting with the spring evaluation period beginning.
With that in mind Gator Country will go over where the current roster stands, what the depth chart looks like, and how the 13 incoming freshmen will fit in at their positions when they arrive on campus in June.
Kicking things off will be the most important position on the field, quarterback.
RS Sophomore — Luke Del Rio
RS Senior — Austin Appleby
Freshman — Kyle Trask
Freshman — Feleipe Franks
Questions heading into spring
The Florida Gators have never started a transfer quarterback. That will change September 3, but we knew that heading into spring. With two veteran, older players at the position it was assumed that one of the two would win the starting quarterback job.
Luke Del Rio did that this spring. He’s won over the locker room and his teammates followed his lead in the spring. They’re confident in his ability and are ready for him to lead them in 2016.
The two freshmen, specifically Kyle Trask, were the unknowns. Feleipe Franks was the more popular of the two as a highly recruited instate quarterback with rollercoaster recruitment. How would the pair of early enrollees do with a jump in competition?
What we learned
Del Rio separated himself and is the frontrunner to win the starting quarterback job. He’s polished, confident and accurate, everything McElwain and Doug Nussmeier are looking for. The biggest surprise of spring was the development and ability of Kyle Trask.
Much was made of Trask’s stars, or lack thereof, and the fact that he didn’t start for his high school team. All of that considered, Trask showed a big arm, accuracy, poise and pocket presence this spring.
Heading into the spring we predicted that both freshmen were candidates to redshirt but Trask could have played his way around that for a couple reasons. First, depending on when a backup would be needed, getting Trask reps early could benefit Florida. If Del Rio were to miss extended time, Trask could be the best option for Florida. If Florida loses Del Rio for a game, especially a road game, maybe you go with the more experienced quarterback in Appleby, but Appleby is a one-year graduate transfer rental, and Trask is a long-term option. Franks showed throughout the spring that he has a big arm and the physical tools to play the position but also that he needs time, and seasoning — lots of it. Getting Trask playing time early also allows you separation between the two quarterbacks in the class.
Del Rio might not be a Heisman candidate or an All-American but he’s a quarterback that can run the offense and manage the game. It’s a formula that McElwain has won, and won big, with in the past. Right now he has a commanding lead over the rest of the quarterback room in terms of the playbook and knowledge of the position.
Right now, we would expect that both Trask and Appleby could get playing time against Massachusetts and North Texas to start the season, to give both some playing experience in case of an emergency down the line. Franks has a future at Florida, he just needs time. Lucky for him, Florida’s quarterback situation is far deeper than it has been in past years and that will allow Franks the time he needs.