Enrolling at college early is a sacrifice but it’s a move that is already paying dividends for several new Florida Gators.
They should be enjoying the last few months of high school, getting ready for prom and hanging out with their friends but instead graduated high school early and are cramming in the film room, studying a new playbook and sweating next to a new group of friend out on the practice field in Gainesville.
On Monday Jim McElwain singled out Kemore Gamble and Kadeem Telfort as two freshmen that are taking advantage of the head start they earned themselves over the rest of the recruiting class by getting to campus in time for spring camp.
Gamble, a big 6-3, 241 pound tight end, has a versatile skill set. He’s shown that he can be physical enough to block on the line of scrimmage but also showed off his receiving ability during a 7-on-7 tournament in Gainesville last summer. The physical skill set if impressive, but that isn’t what has stuck out to his head coach the most.
“His natural football instinct, the fact it’s really important to him and his toughness has really showed up,” McElwain said of Gamble. “Like a lot of these young guys, they’re hungry. Just seeing them go out and compete and take coaching I think has been really good.”
Gamble has two veterans in front of him in C’yontai Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby but should be able to compete for playing time right away thanks to enrolling early.
“I see him being used as a tight end in a lot of different ways as we like to use that group, but he gives us some versatility as well,” said McElwain. “He’s got some really good ball skills.”
Telfort, an offensive tackle, enrolled early with the hopes of earning a starting job this season. That might be difficult with four starters returning but he’s on his way to working into a rotation of the nine to ten guys that Florida likes using on the offensive line during games. Martez Ivey has moved from guard to tackle and taken a leadership role for Florida. Barring injury he’ll lock down that starting position.
“I think this is really Tez’s first real spring because he’s kinda been injured,” McElwain noted Monday. “I think just having him there has really helped as well. He’s really a good leader.”
On the other end Jawaan Taylor, following a stellar freshman season, appears to have a strangle hold on the other starting tackle spot but McElwain quickly dismissed the notion that Telfort was “stuck” behind those two.
“I wouldn’t say he’s stuck behind them because he could actually push,” McElwain quipped. “He’s doing a nice job. The old stuck behind a guy deal. He’s not stuck because the best guy’s going to play.”
Another freshman, quarterback Kadarius Toney, has also drawn early praise for his athleticism. Toney is an athlete with speed to burn. It was thought that he would be moved to receiver, but with low numbers at quarterback the Alabama native is being given a chance to spin it this spring. He’s done enough early that Doug Nussmeier and McElwain are already scheming ways to utilize his skillset this fall.
“He’s electric. When you put the ball in his hands, he can make things happen,” Nussmeier said of Toney. “He had a run the other practice, and he had one again today, when he pulls it down and goes, you better bottle him up fast because he’s electric, and really excited about him. He brings a-whole-nother dimension to our offense, the ability to put some packages in an do some things differently. It takes you out of ‘Hey, this is what they’re going to be in.’ Now, there’s a whole new package that presents itself to a defense (that) they’ve got to prepare for week in, week out.”