The Gators brought in a school-record 12 early enrollees this year.
But how many will make an immediate impact? It’s pretty safe to expect the three junior college early enrollees to contribute this upcoming season.
Wide receiver Dre Massey, kicker Eddy Pineiro and running back Mark Thompson proved that with standout performances in the spring game.
Massey recorded two catches for 29 yards and a touchdown. Thompson ran for 46 yards and a touchdown on five carries, and caught three passes for 25 yards. Pineiro made 3 of 5 field goal attempts with each try coming from more than 45 yards away, and booted 9 of 10 kickoffs for touchbacks.
“Those are great things to see,” Gators coach Jim McElwain said after the spring game. “And I guess more than that, just to see the guys’ confidence and their ability. The stage isn’t too big. Those guys you mentioned, they’re all going to contribute this fall. But you know what, we’ll still need great summers out of them.”
Pineiro has the best chance to begin the season as a starter with Florida in desperate need of a new kicker. The Gators made 9 of 20 field goal attempts last season.
“I think we’re trying to make a positive impact on our team,” said Pineiro, who grew up playing soccer and started playing football as a high school senior. “I don’t know too much about football. I just kick the ball and it goes in. I can’t really tell you what kind of impact [Massey and Thompson] are making. I know what kind of impact I’m making. I’m making field goals.”
Massey received most of the reps as the starting slot receiver this spring with last season’s starting slot receiver Brandon Powell still rehabbing from offseason foot surgery. But expect for Massey and Powell to engage in an intriguing battle this fall for the starting job.
Thompson might not start with sophomores Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett also fighting for the starting spot. But Thompson has impressed in his first spring with the Gators, as his 6-foot-2, 242-pound frame should at least earn him a role in the offense as a power back.
“I’ve never been in front of a crowd that big,” Thompson said after the spring game. “It was amazing. I’m surprising myself. I didn’t get any butterflies or anything like that. I came out ready to play, so that’s a good sign. Hopefully it’s like that when the season comes around as well. I’m ready to play, so I’ll be able to showcase that when camp is over and done with.”