With a newly-named starting quarterback, a suspended defensive standout, and an injured punter – Gator football head coach Jim McElwain had plenty to talk about on Friday.
McElwain talked about the suspensions of Teez Tabor and Cyontai Lewis and said again how important they are to the program, explaining that they are valued teammates and their suspension is meant to set a standard. Lewis and Tabor will miss the Gators’ season opener against the visiting UMass Minutemen, but they should return to practices by next Thursday.
For McElwain, the suspension goes deeper than football. He says that nobody plays this game forever and he intends on helping all of his players become better people on and off the field.
Injury-wise, Florida cornerback Duke Dawson was limited in practice today and wide out Chris Thompson will have a doctor look at his leg soon due to a pre-existing condition. Florida punter Johnny Townsend also sprained his thumb after catching a simulated snap from a jugs machine during practice.
— Ryan Nelson (@TheRyanNelson_) August 19, 2016
Looking forward, McElwain and the Gators have an official starter at quarterback, with Luke Del Rio earning the top spot over Austin Appleby, Kyle Trask, and Feleipe Franks.
However, McElwain knows how long the season is, and quarterback depth is absolutely necessary in the hard-hitting SEC. Simply put, Del Rio’s starting job isn’t being handed to him and all four quarterbacks will continue working for the top spot.
Both McElwain and Del Rio agreed that consistency was the main factor in naming a starter. Del Rio has plenty of experience in this offense, and now he’ll get the chance to prove himself as a leader.
Defensively, Florida is looking to create consistent depth in their secondary. With Tabor’s suspension, the Gators will have the chance to give some younger defensive backs vital playing experience. Meanwhile, Florida will rely on its talented defensive line to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Defensive linemen CeCe Jefferson is being asked to move inside and play defensive tackle, and McElwain says he’ll need to add more weight while maintaining speed and strength.
College football’s kickoff is looming, and Luke Del Rio says he came to Florida because of the Gators’ expectations for greatness. Del Rio says Florida expects to win the SEC East and earn a second straight trip to Atlanta, while a national championship is the ultimate goal.