University of Florida

Austin Appleby eyeing starting QB job at Florida

Austin Appleby came to Florida to win a job.

The Purdue graduate transfer quarterback is competing with front-runner Luke Del Rio for the keys to the Gators’ offense, and the mobile 6-4, 235-pound signal-caller believes he has the requisite skills to jump-start the team’s anemic aerial attack.

“I didn’t come here to not play,” Appleby said. “I came here to compete and earn this starting job. The way I do that is just be me. If I take care of the things I need to take care of, control what I can control, I believe everything will take care of itself.”

Appleby’s No. 1 calling card is experience, having started 11 games for Purdue the past two seasons. But on a bad team (Purdue went 5-19 the past two years), Appleby wasn’t particularly effective (19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions), ultimately getting benched and later leaving the school for a fresh start.

Still, the fifth-year senior has played in Spartan Stadium and against Notre Dame. He also offers a versatility and athleticism that Del Rio doesn’t possess, rushing for nine touchdowns at Purdue.

“I started in the Big Ten for the last two years. Even with the number of practice reps you get, still once you’re out there and it’s live and you’re in front of 100,000 [fans], there’s no pretending,” Appleby said. “I think the only way you can gain that experience is by being out there. So it’s not new to me.

“I understand what it takes to prepare, I understand what it is to be under the lights, I understand what it is to stand in there. I take those experiences good and bad, and [they’ve helped me] to develop into who I am today to help this team win a championship.”

Appleby, who was born in Canton, Ohio — home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame — is aiming to become Florida’s ninth starting quarterback since Tim Tebow, and he’s excited about the opportunity to play on a talented team.

“It’s been a wild winter to get to this point,” said Appleby, whose father played quarterback at Louisville. “There’s obviously been a lot of quarterback issues [at Florida]. There’s an opportunity to come in and compete to be the guy. That’s hard to pass up. … I have a chance to be a part of something extremely special and have an opportunity to compete to be the starting quarterback for the Florida Gators and go win a championship.”

THIS AND THAT

▪ The Gators scrimmaged for the second time this spring on Friday, mostly focusing on first down and other situational work.

▪ Starting receiver Ahmad Fulwood (leg) and starting center Cam Dillard (broken nose) returned to action, as did junior-college wideout Dre Massey (hamstring). UF coach Jim McElwain also said linebacker Alex Anzalone, who missed the final 12 games of last season with a shoulder injury, has been fully cleared, but the team hasn’t “put him in any full contact yet.”

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