Florida ended last season on a dispiriting three-game losing streak, so second-year coach Jim McElwain was eager to turn the page.
“It makes you really excited to get going on spring ball and get that taste out of your mouth. A miserable taste that was embarrassing,” McElwain said about UF’s 41-7 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
“It was embarrassing the way we played. It was embarrassing the way we took the field. It was embarrassing the way we laid down. That’s what’s great about spring practice.”
On a sweltering and sunny Wednesday, the Gators opened camp, and McElwain was pleased with the team’s energy and early execution.
It was only Day 1, but McElwain said Florida is well ahead of where it was as a team and program just a year ago.
“Just the whole flow of practice. The terminology part,” he explained.
“You could tell by the install. We were in three personnel groups. We weren’t handcuffed by formations. … We’re way ahead of where we were a year ago."
All eyes were on the quarterback battle between former Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio and Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby.
With Will Grier gone and former starting quarterback Treon Harris suspended indefinitely, Del Rio — a redshirt sophomore walk-on and the son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio — enters the spring as the frontrunner for the job after spending last season on Florida’s scout team.
“He’s been here, obviously, and been learning,” McElwain said.
Meanwhile, Appleby joined the program after playing 17 games for the Boilermakers in three seasons, throwing 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
“Just to see the command, you can tell they’ve got a little something. They’ve done it before,” McElwain said.
“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. In Luke’s case, he’s been awful hungry to get out here, and he showed he was ready.”
During the open portion of Wednesday’s practice, though, it was actually unheralded two-star early enrollee Kyle Trask who impressed the most. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound freshman is considered a project after hardly playing in high school, but Trask displayed sharp accuracy and a strong arm during multiple drills Wednesday.
McElwain praised four-star freshman Felepie Franks’ day, too.
“I was happy to see those two young guys. They have live arms, did a couple good things in some of the drills, and you can see it’s really important to them.”
THIS & THAT
Starting wideout Brandon Powell (foot surgery) and offensive lineman Martez Ivey (shoulder surgery) will miss spring practice due to injuries, as will Jorge Powell (ACL) and Neil MacInness (ACL). Former starting linebacker Alex Anzalone, who missed 12 games last season with a shoulder injury, has been cleared for non-contact work. … Defensive backs Duke Dawson (leg) and Quincy Wilson (groin) exited practice with minor injuries, as did wideout Kalif Jackson (knee) and defensive end Jordan Sheritt (foot). … Redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson was recruited as a safety, but the former three-star prospect has officially moved to linebacker this spring.