Forget the five early enrollees and some of the returning stars from the 2016 season for a second. What’s most notable for the Florida Gators as spring practice begins is who will not be there. Here’s a hint: You’ll need two hands to count.
Head coach Jim McElwain announced Thursday that seven players are completely being held out of practice this spring: redshirt senior defensive end Jordan Sherit (knee), redshirt senior offensive lineman Antonio Riles (ACL), redshirt junior quarterback Luke Del Rio and four sophomores in linebacker David Reese (wrist), wide receiver Freddie Swain (shoulder) and defensive backs Quincy Lenton* (foot) and Jeawon Taylor (shoulder).
Joining them is a trio that can participate in practice but will do so in non-contact jerseys for most or all of the session: senior WR Dre Massey* early enrollee freshman LB James Houston IV and sophomore DB C.J. McWilliams*.
None of the absences are necessarily “major” considering there’s still six months before the season begins and guys like Sherit, Riles and Del Rio are experienced; but Reese, Swain, Lenton, Taylor, Houston and McWilliams certainly could have used the development, and the Gators are itching to get an offensive weapon like Massey back involved as soon as possible.
There will also be some changes coming to Florida’s roster this spring, some of which are expected to carry over into the season.
Fans will finally get their wish and see junior Martez Ivey move outside to his natural position of left tackle. Senior Duke Dawson will move to exclusively playing cornerback, while sophomore Chauncey Gardner will see some time outside while rotating at all three secondary positions.
Redshirt sophomore Richerd Desir-Jones will flip from offensive line to defensive line with sophomore walk-on Tanner Rowell making the opposite move. And last but not least, junior Camrin Knight* is headed to linebacker after failing to see much action at tight end.
In all, that means Florida has 56 healthy scholarship players for spring practice of which there are only seven defensive backs.
Back to those early enrollees. They have jersey numbers: Houston (41), DT Kyrie Campbell (55), TE Kemore Gamble (88), OL Kadeem Telfort (76), Toney (17).
Regarding Toney, who is officially listed as a 5-foot-11, 180-pound athlete on the Gators’ roster, McElwain again confirmed that he will get the opportunity to compete alongside sophomores Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask at quarterback.
Toney’s athleticism will play a role in his ability to compete for the job or at least some snaps at the position as McElwain also noted that Florida hopes to add more quarterback runs to its play sheet next season.
* All classes listed are for the 2017 season with redshirts not applied at this time.
OnlyGators.com will update this story with more shortly.