The only thing better than the NFL being back is that college football is right behind it. Many schools began practices this week, including the University of Florida. The Gators took the field Thursday, as the new recruits and transfers all seemed to impress head coach Jim McElwain.
The biggest area of interest, however, is how the battle for starting quarterback is going. No one really knows what direction the Gators will go with this situation. Luke Del Rio is coming off of shoulder surgery that kept him out of the final five games of last season. Feleipe Franks (above) red-shirted his freshman year but came out with an impressive performance in Florida’s spring game. Graduate transfer Malik Zaire has raw talent that wasn’t utilized much in his time at Notre Dame.
The case can be made for Del Rio to come in and reclaim his starting job back. Though he was plagued by injuries last season, Del Rio still managed to throw for over 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns in the six games he played in. The only area of concern for him is the high amount of interceptions he threw in a small number of games.
Zaire coming in as a transfer could provide the spark the Gators offense hasn’t had since Tim Tebow was quarterback. Like Tebow, he’s a left-handed quarterback with veteran knowledge and quick feet that got McElwain’s attention in practice. He could be the safest option to start the season at quarterback until Del Rio or Franks proves they’re ready.
Speaking of Franks, he started the practice off by taking reps with the first team offense, a feat that McElwain said he earned. This only furthers the notion that Franks is not relinquishing the starting job without a fight. During the spring game, he led the Orange team to three scores in his four possessions on the field including throwing a 16-yard touchdown to Antonio Calloway.
McElwain told the media that all three quarterbacks got reps with the first team offense in different situations. By the end of practice, each had a high cumulative snap count.
It seems that the race for the starting job will be one of the most watched scenarios this offseason and the Gators are obviously entertaining the possibility of playing with multiple QBs early in the year.
With McElwain in mid-season press conference form, no one knows for sure what his true plan is at quarterback.