Gator spring football: QB race, position changes, injury updates
As Florida begins spring practice, the most important question remains: Who will be the Gators' starting quarterback?
With Luke Del Rio out for the entirety of spring practice due to injury, the redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask will be splitting the reps. Early enrollee athlete Kadarius Toney will also be getting some reps, and he adds a running option to the postition, which the Gators tried to do with graduate transfer Austin Appleby last season.
"The biggest piece we're looking for first and foremost is somebody to step up and say, 'You know what, I'm going to take this and I'm going to lead this team and help the parts around me play better,'" head coach Jim McElwain said. "Now with that, it can't be forced. It's got to be natural."
With the addition of a solid 2016 signing class to the playmakers already on the team, like Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland, McElwain called the wide receivers a real group of strength.
And the group only gets stronger with the return of JUCO transfer Dre Massey, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during the opening kickoff in the first game of 2016. The coaching staff had big plans for the versatile athlete last year, including using him in the wildcat formation.
“That was a piece of the offense that we can put back in now," McElwain said. "We’ll see what he can handle. We’re not going to overload him. Obviously, as you can tell, he’s not in any of the contact stuff, which is the right thing. But he’s also a weapon and a guy I’m looking forward to seeing out there on SEC Saturdays.”
Defensive backs Marcell Harris and Duke Dawson both return for their senior year after considering declaring early for the NFL draft.
"I think Duke and Marcell both, man, that's huge for us," McElwain said. "As it was a year ago kind of with Marcus (Maye), you know. It has as much to do with their investment and showing the young guys, this is how we go about it here and this is part of your being part of this legacy."
Florida will have 15 total practices, starting Feb. 28. The team will take spring break off, then regroup during the week of March 12 for 13 more practices, culminating with the spring game on April 7.
Out: quarterback Luke Del Rio (shoulder), offensive guard Antonio Riles (knee), defensive end Jordan Sherit (knee), wide receiver Freddie Swain (shoulder), linebacker David Reese (wrist), safeties Jeawon Taylor (arm) and Quincy Lenton (foot).
Non-contact: wide receiver Dre Massey (knee), defensive back C.J. McWilliams (knee), early enrollee linebacker James Houston (knee).
As expected, Martez Ivey will move to left tackle in the absence of David Sharpe, who left for the NFL Draft. With Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor also leaving for the NFL Draft, Duke Dawson moves from nickelback to cornerback. Chauncey Gardner will rotate between all the secondary positions. Richerd Desir-Jones will move from the offensive line to the defensive line. Walk-on Tanner Rowell will move from D-line to O-line as a guard or center. Camrin Knight will move from tight end to linebacker.