University of Florida

Florida Gators quarterback hopefuls struggle in recent scrimmage

Florida head coach Jim McElwain on the sidelines against Michigan during the first half in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl at the Orlando Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016.
Florida head coach Jim McElwain on the sidelines against Michigan during the first half in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl at the Orlando Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. TNS

Florida’s four-headed battle at quarterback has been the story line of spring camp, but if Friday’s scrimmage is any indication, the plot is only thickening.

Florida coach Jim McElwain, who readily admits he holds his quarterbacks to high standards, was frustrated by the group’s overall performance in Florida’s second scrimmage of the spring, saying: “They [were] just OK. I mean not great. Not bad, just kind of wanting to keep working on the consistency piece there.”

Friday’s scrimmage was a chance for Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio, the purported front-runner for the starting job, to separate himself from the pack, but McElwain said the competition remains open, as Del Rio, Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby and early enrollees Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask have all had individual success throughout camp.

“All four guys had their moments,” McElwain said, highlighting the group’s command of the offense and their communication in and out of the huddle. “I think Austin probably stepped up and did some things in situational stuff that was good to see. I though the team moved really well with Luke behind it, and both Kyle and Feleipe had their moments. You can tell there’s some arm talent there.”

Although McElwain specifically praised the defensive line’s performance during the scrimmage, the offense still produced several explosive plays, including a “60- to 70-yard” touchdown run by junior-college tailback Mark Thompson and long gains by receiver Ahmad Fulwood and tight end DeAndre Goolsby.

Still, McElwain hinted that the quarterbacks have hit a bit of a wall late in camp, as Florida’s coach would like to see improved accuracy and consistent decision-making.

The quarterbacks turned the ball over multiple times during the scrimmage, including interceptions by defensive backs Chauncey Gardner and Marcus Maye.

“I think they were ahead of maybe where I thought during the start. I think we took some steps back though,” McElwain said. “I’m not so sure they weren’t pressing a little bit, trying to maybe create some things that weren’t there. Not horribly by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, my expectation at that position is held to a pretty high standard.”

THIS AND THAT

All-SEC punter Johnny Townsend (stomach bug) did not participate in the scrimmage, and early enrollee cornerback McArthur Burnett went down with a leg injury. Both players are expected to return to action this week. However, offensive lineman Brandon Sandifer, competing for a rotational spot at guard, will miss the rest of camp with a knee injury.

▪ Florida will practice Tuesday and Thursday before Friday’s Orange & Blue Debut.

▪ McElwain praised the “steadiness” of sophomore tailback Jordan Cronkrite, a Westminster Christian product.

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