Saturday, December 15th the Orlando Apollos made history with the first practice in this inaugural AAF season. I had the privilege to attend this practice on behalf of Ambush Sports Network, and I am excited to provide a small series on my observations.
Apollos 1st Practice QB Observations
The opportunity to be present and get an up-close look at the four quarterbacks during the Orlando Apollos practice was quite a treat. All four quarterbacks looked good, each with their strengths and weaknesses. In many of the drills, the QBs were side by side throwing the same routes, and some of those weaknesses and strengths were easier to observe. I want to break down my thoughts on the four Orlando Apollos QBs and where I think they fit on the depth chart.
The number one selection for the Orlando Apollos during the AAF Protect or Pick QB Draft, Garrett is the combination of strength and accuracy that Coach Spurrier is looking for. Gilbert spent three years at University of Texas before transferring to Southern Methodist University (SMU) for his final two years. During his three year campaign at Texas, Gilbert only threw more than 66 passes once, that being in 2010. That season he posted 2,744 yards, 10 TDs, and 17 Ints.
The move to SMU seemed to pay dividends quickly. His first year he saw a stat line of 2,932/15/15 but added 346 yards and eight TDs on the ground. He put it together his final year with 3,528/21/7 while adding 267/6 rushing.
While watching the Apollos practice, it seemed that Gilbert and Stephen Morris would be throwing together. I’m not clear if this is an indication of the roster position or just pure coincidence (I say this as I have Morris and Gilbert as my QB1, QB2). Either way, Gilbert looked solid on the field, lofting perfect deep balls and driving the ball for in/out routes.
Gilbert is a big as advertised, standing 6’4″ and 230 lbs. I think he controls the starting job through the opening week.
My favorite to win the starting job before season’s end, Morris brings accuracy and some zip on his passes to the Apollos. Morris had an auspicious time at the University of Miami throwing for 3,000+ yards in his final two seasons, adding 21 TDs in both with 7 and 12 Ints as well.
Again to reiterate, Gilbert and Morris threw together on a few occasions during the Apollos practice, leaving me to believe the starting competition runs through these two gentlemen. Morris had no problem getting the ball to his receivers downfield or on the sideline. His ability to drive the ball into his receivers hands was impressive.
Morris has spent time in the NFL on various practice squads but wasn’t able to find a permanent home there. I don’t think the Apollos are too upset to have him on their team right now though. Morris is currently my number 2 QB, but I could see that changing this year.
The largest QB on the Apollos, Appleby might bring the strongest arm as well. While watching the QBs throw different routes, you could hear the zip of Appleby’s ball before it exploded into the hands of his receivers. At one point, one of the receivers hollered an “Oh, Crap!” after catching a ball breaking out of a comeback route.
But with an arm that big, there were some downsides. One of which, I can’t recall Austin connecting with a receiver on any long balls. The impressive part to that, he would release the ball ten yards later than the other QBs in the drill and still overthrew his runners. This coaching staff, which is arguably the best in the AAF, will be able to work with Appleby and fine tune the touch on his passes. Once he reigns that in a little, accuracy would be the next piece he can work on.
Austin comes from Purdue University before his transfer to the University of Florida in 2016. Appleby has hovered around 1,450 passing yards his final three seasons in college but struggled with his TD/INT ratio, only once throwing more touchdowns than interceptions in a season (2016).
I have Appleby solidly as the QB3.
Anderson was a touchdown machine during his tenure at Fordham University. Kevin posted marks of 32/10, 27/4, 14/4 (TD/INT), and if you don’t want to do the math that equates to 73 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions!
Anderson’s footwork was quick as he snapped into position to throw a pass downfield. He had good speed on the ball, but not near as much as the other three. His deep ball did look pretty, with a high arc to allow his receivers to run under it and catch it in stride.
There are facets to his game that will be very useful to the Apollos, and again, with a great coaching staff ready to help and shape him, the sky is the limit for Anderson.
He sits as my QB4.
If you want to watch the Orlando Apollos on the field this season, you can purchase tickets HERE, or you can call 321-418-3766! Make sure you are following Ambush Sports for more Orlando Apollos practice news!