Florida redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks finished a productive spring practice by completing 8 of 14 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown in the first half of last Friday's Orange and Blue Debut on Florida Field. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]
Spring review: Position-by-position breakdown of UF offense
Now that Florida’s Orange & Blue Debut is in the books, it’s time to reflect on the 15 days of spring and project where the Gators might find themselves heading into the fall.
Here’s a position-by-position look at the offense:
Getting it done: Lost Gators as true freshmen a year ago, Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask have clearly come a long way in terms of knowing the offense, feeling comfortable in it and executing it. The two were engaged in a tight battle throughout the spring, but Franks started pulling ahead over the final practices and seemed to widen the gap with his solid performance in the spring game. Franks enters the offseason as the clear leader for the starting role. He has great size and a big-time arm. He and Trask both have the arm talent to stretch the field, something Jim McElwain clearly wants to do in his offense. True freshman Kadarius Toney also excited the coaches with his quick release and explosive playmaking ability with his legs, which likely has earned him a package of plays that he’ll get to run in the fall.
Still needs work: McElwain talked about this before the spring game, then we saw it first hand last Friday night — the Gators need to be more proficient in the red zone. And, of course, it starts with the quarterback. Franks missed two wide-open receivers for what should have been easy touchdowns in the spring game. Both Franks and Trask endured struggles in the red zone during scrimmages and it will be a focal point for both this summer and during camp in August. Franks has a powerful arm and has shown great accuracy on his deep throws. But he struggled with some of the shorter, touch passes and will look to improve in that area over the summer in workouts with the receivers.
Spring star: Franks took command of the offense in the second half of the spring and solidified his hold on it with a solid performance in the Orange & Blue Debut. He showed he has the size and physical tools to be effective in the offense. He also displayed some leadership qualities, something McElwain was looking for at the position.
Spring surprise: We heard from coaches and players how explosive Toney is, but seeing his quickness and playmaking ability live Friday night was startling. One thing is certain: McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier are going to find ways to put the ball in his hands, as a traditional quarterback, a wildcat quarterback and slot receiver. Who knows, maybe he’ll even end up returning kickoffs and punts.
Projected starter: Franks.
Getting it done: The three scholarship tailbacks — Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson — all had productive springs and are capable of being an every-down back if needed. Scarlett, a true junior, seems comfortable and confident in the offense now and flashed his playmaking ability throughout the spring. Perine, who saw significant playing time as a true freshman last fall, appears to have benefited from added weight and strength. Like Scarlett, he is an extremely hard runner between the tackles.
Still needs work: The big thing is the Gators need to add depth at the position, which they will do with the summer arrival of two highly rated freshmen backs, Malik Davis and Adarius Lemons. Another issue that has to be addressed (again) is Thompson’s ball security. He focused on it throughout the spring with good result, but then fumbled in the spring game. He’s a big, powerful, explosive back, but he’s not going to get his carries if he can’t secure the ball.
Spring star: Scarlett, who established himself as the starter in the second half of last season, solidified his hold on the role with a strong spring that included several long runs in the scrimmages. McElwain really likes Scarlett’s ability to stick his foot in the ground and head north and south.
Spring surprise: There really wasn’t one. Scarlett, Perine and Thompson all performed at a high level, which was expected of the three experienced backs.
Projected starter: Scarlett.
Getting it done: Junior Antonio Callaway seemed to make the most of his first spring with the Gators and is in a position to take his game to another level in 2017. He’s been putting in the work (on the practice field, in the film room and in the weight room) and it showed throughout the spring. He made all kinds of plays and has taken on the look of an elite SEC receiver. True sophomores Josh Hammond and Tyrie Cleveland are clearly more comfortable and emerged as productive receivers. Brandon Powell had a predictably solid spring, while Dre Massey, though held out of contact work, excited the coaches with his speed and playmaking ability in the slot.
Still needs work: Massey, who underwent ACL surgery after last season’s opener, needs to continue on his path to returning to full speed. He could be a big part of the offense if can stay healthy. Freddie Swain, a potential starter, also missed the spring and needs to make a healthy return. Cleveland will be looking to continue improving his consistency.
Spring star: Callaway. He did what he does — make plays on screen passes and throws down the field. With more playmakers around him, he could be a little bit harder for opposing secondaries to target.
Spring surprise: Many viewed Hammond as a potential possession receiver when he signed with UF last year, but he’s turned out to be more than that. His speed, quickness and hands made him a favorite target of the QBs this spring and he’s in a position to have a breakout season in 2017.
Projected starters: Callaway, Powell and Hammonds.
Getting it done: The three veterans — DeAndre Goolsby, C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens — all had good springs and were steady contributors in the passing game. True freshman Kemore Gamble flashed some playmaking ability and will push for playing time in the fall.
Still needs work: Lewis is a potential match-up problem for strong safeties, but he continues to struggle with consistency, especially catching the ball. He had another drop in the spring game.
Spring star: Goolsby improved his consistency and was a reliable go-to guy for the quarterbacks.
Spring surprise: At a position fairly stacked with veteran players, it’s difficult for a true freshman to get noticed. But Gamble did. He flashed a lot of playmaking ability and is expected to contribute in the fall.
Projected starter: Goolsby.
Getting it done: The No. 1 goal heading into the spring was to become more passionate and physical, and the big guys seemed to accomplish that under new line coach Brad Davis, who brought a new energy to the group. This is a line that now has some depth and experience — and some potential big-time players in Martez Ivey, Jawaan Taylor and T.J. McCoy.
Still needs work: Based on the spring game, consistency in the running game still appears to be an issue. There were not a lot of holes for the running backs, even when the line was going against the No. 2 defense.
Spring star: Taking part in his first spring at UF and back at his natural position (left tackle), Ivey had a dominant spring and emerged as a leader up front.
Spring surprise: Brett Heggie was a highly rated recruit who kind of became forgotten on the scout team last fall. But he grabbed everyone’s attention with his tough, physical play at left guard, where he appears to have nailed down the starting role.
Projected starters: Ivey (LT), Heggie (LG), McCoy (C), Fred Johnson (RG), Taylor (RT).
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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