With Florida’s preseason camp now in full swing with the pads coming on and scrimmages on the upcoming agenda, here are some early observations of the Gators:

  • Forget what you’re hearing about the quarterback battle being over and Luke Del Rio being the starter. The competition between Del Rio and Austin Appleby is just getting underway, and Jim McElwain appears nowhere close to naming a starter. From what I’ve heard, Appleby had a great summer and is a serious threat to win the job. At this point, the race is too early to call.

 

  • Mike Kent and the strength staff appear to have done a great job with the players this summer. Many players are noticeably bigger and stronger, and some who needed to shed pounds and reshape their bodies have.  Here are some guys I’d put on the All-Airport team: Mark Thompson, Ahmad Fulwood, C’yontai Lewis, Martez Ivey, Fred Johnson, David Sharpe, Caleb Brantley, Cece Jefferson, Brian Cox Jr., Joey Ivie, Antonneous Clayton, Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis, David Reese, Chauncey Gardner, Marcell Harris, Nick Washington and Quincy Wilson.
  • Here are some players who have put themselves in position to have a possible breakout season: Jordan Cronkrite, Fulwood, C.J. Worton, C’yontai Lewis, Brandon Powell, Martez Ivey, David Sharpe, Caleb Brantley, Alex Anzalone, Duke Dawson, Quincy Wilson and Eddy Pineiro.
  • The offensive line should be bigger, stronger, more experienced and better than last season. But it still remains a huge question mark heading into the season. McElwain has expressed some early concern about the line being able to get adequate push in the running game and in pass protection. The Gators have capable quarterbacks and more playmakers at the skill positions, but for those guys to be effective and for the offense to work, UF has to find a way to get it done up front.
  • UF’s depth at linebacker still isn’t all that great, but it looks a lot better now with the emergence of two young players — former safety Kylan Johnson and true freshman and early enrollee David Reese. Johnson had an excellent spring game and Reese is starting to show the benefits from being mentored by Davis and the other veteran linebackers.
  • It’s hard to envision a scenario where UF’s top three tailbacks — Cronkrite, Thompson and Jordan Scarlett — don’t end up sharing playing time and carries. The Gators likely won’t have a dominant tailback, but the position could turn out to be the strongest it’s been in a while.

 

  • True freshman defensive end Antonneous Clayton is a beast and should have an immediate impact on the defensive front, which is looking to improve its pass rush.
  • The true freshman wide receivers, especially Tyrie Cleveland, are going to play a significant role in the passing game.

 

  • Thanks to the addition of place-kicker Eddy Pineiro, the special teams have a chance to go from a weakness to a team strength in 2016. Pineiro is a confident kid with a huge leg, but he’s going to have to come through in actual games, something he has yet to experience, before the Gators become complete in special teams.

 

  • The starting secondary has a chance to be just as good as last year’s, but depth at cornerback is a huge concern.

 

  • The vibe I’m getting from the players is they don’t mind at all that they’re being overlooked by many in the East while Tennessee is getting all kinds of love. They are highly motivated by it.

 

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