As the start of spring practice inches closer and closer, it’s time to answer more football questions.
Travis: How good is Mark Thompson? Will he start at RB?
Anthony Chiang: We’ll know just how good Thompson is soon with the start of spring practice just a few weeks away. But Gators coaches are very high on the country’s top 2016 JUCO running back. Florida’s roster lists Thompson at 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, so he brings good size to the position. Think about this, former physical Gators back Matt Jones is listed at 6-foot-1, 231 pounds on the Redskins’ roster. In other words, Gators fans should be ready for another bruiser in the backfield.
“I think the first thing that comes to mind is size, and when you watch the film his ability to finish,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said of Thompson on signing day. “He was just up in the office today with a couple of guys that came by my office to see how we’re doing. He said he was 239 today and didn’t look 210. You know what I’m getting at. I’m excited to see him going forward.”
How will Thompson’s game translate to the SEC? Well, he ran for for 1,298 yards and 18 touchdowns on 268 carries last season for Dodge City Community College (Kan.). As a redshirt junior, Thompson will have two years to play two seasons, which means the Gators will have to take advantage of his skill set right away with his eligibility clock ticking. Thompson will battle sophomores Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett for the the starting job this year and don’t be surprised if Thompson wins the competition. McElwain likes to feature multiple backs, but Thompson could be the guy getting the majority of the carries.
Oscar: Which freshman WR do you think will start this year?
Anthony Chiang: It’s a talented group. Three four-star high school wide receivers are part of Florida’s incoming 2016 recruiting class. But if I had to pick one who will have an immediate impact, I’ll go with Westfield (Texas) receiver Tyrie Cleveland (see Hudl tape). At 6-foot-3, Cleveland could be the big receiver Florida has been looking for. His combination of size and speed should earn him some playing time right away opposite of Antonio Callaway. But at 189 pounds, Cleveland will have to add some muscle to his lanky frame to compete at the college level.
“You look at the size, No. 1, it just sticks out to you, and the speed as a track guy,” Gators offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said of Cleveland. “He has the ability to create big plays and explosive plays in the passing game.”
Dillon: How’s the QB situation looking?
Anthony Chiang: The same it has looked for the past month. Transfer quarterback Luke Del Rio and graduate transfer quarterback Austin Appleby are believed to have the best shot to win the starting job. We should get some clarity on the quarterback competition during Florida’s spring practices over the next month.