What we learned: Florida football is fun again in 2018 Orange & Blue Debut

By Adam Silverstein
April 14, 2018
What we learned: Florida football is fun again in 2018 Orange & Blue Debut
Football

As far as spring football games are concerned, it’s difficult to truly have that many legitimate, long-lasting takeaways. The roster is split, alumni get involved and the head coach is rarely serving as more than a figurehead watching his players and assistant coaches go through the motions for four quarters.

Despite all of that, the 2018 Orange & Blue Debut was clearly a success for the Florida Gators — even if all it accomplished was putting some long-lost smiles on the faces of fans and players. Let’s take a look at what went down on Saturday afternoon inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.


1. Fun returns to The Swamp: It cannot be overstated how different it felt watching this spring game. Not only did Florida split rosters and play competitively early on, it was clear from the get-go that Gators head coach Dan Mullen wanted the fans and players to have fun over the two hours of action. Former Florida players Lawrence Wright and Travis McGriff cherry picked with a pair of wide-open touchdowns over the course of the game, and points found their way on the scoreboard throughout the game. Mullen’s demand request for fans to show out was obviously heard, and though The Swamp was not packed to the gills, the Gator Nation responded in droves with about 53,000 fans in attendance. UF also claims there were about 170 former players in town for the game. “To see that type of support was really special to me today,” Mullen said afterwards, also noting that the Gator Walk was packed and the players noticed.

It was the first time in a while that you could see a true passion for Gators football again, and Mullen deserves major praise for getting that done. The players were even allowed to perform touchdown celebrations, including a rousing game of “Duck, Duck, Goose.”

2. An edge but no final answer in the quarterback battle: The completion and yardage stats are largely irrelevant, but in terms of actual play, we saw flashes from all three of the quarterbacks primarily in the competition — redshirt sophomores Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, along with freshman Emory Jones. Ultimately, though, there was no final answer to be had on the day. The primary takeaway? This is going to be a Franks vs. Trask battle over the summer, though it would not be a surprise to see both play in the fall.

Trask appeared to be in control of the Blue team out of the gate, making a number of top-notch passes while seemingly comfortable in a pocket, even when he did not get a lot of time. For every two passes Trask drilled, he sailed one. Perhaps most importantly was the variety of balls Trask was capable of completing as he hit crossing plays, back-shoulder throws and out routes. He completed 12-of-24 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown.

Franks actually hit on 8-of-12 passes, totaling 117 yards and a passing score to go along with two rushing touchdowns and a rule-enabled 60-yard gain with his legs. Jones was just 3-of-7 passing for 93 yards but tossed touchdowns on two of those three passes and delivered some sharp balls despite more overthrows than either of his competitors. They combined to score all five of the Orange team’s touchdowns in the 35-30 win.

Mullen said he expected more of his quarterbacks and hopes to see further improvement in the near future. “I saw some really good things; I saw some missed, really simple things,” he noted. “I want to see a lot more from them moving forward.”

3. The running backs are impressive: If any one position was to receive an MVP award coming out of Saturday, it was Florida’s stable of running backs. Senior Jordan Scarlett looked like his old self taking 10 carries for 57 yards and two scores. His 27-yard run down the right sideline was particularly impressive. Sophomore Lamical Perine impressed on his six carries, and freshmen Iverson Clement and Dameon Pierce did as well with a couple strong touches each. This despite sophomores Malik Davis (knee) and Adarius Lemons (knee) not playing. Couple this success with the abilities of Franks and Jones to make plays with their legs, and the Gators look like they will have a formidable rushing attack next season.

This is not to slight the pass catchers, by the way, as sophomore wide receiver Kadarius Toney looked sharp with 50 yards on four receptions, junior WR Tyrie Cleveland had a couple nice catches, and redshirt freshman tight end Kemore Gamble looked ready to contribute with three receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown.

4. The defense looks just fine: Spring games are always tough on the defense considering they do not run their full playbook and are unable to fully go after the quarterback, but suffice to say, Florida’s defensive line did not have much of a problem getting pressure on the quarterbacks over the course of the game. (There’s probably something to be said about the Gators’ lacking offensive line here, but alas.) Sophomore cornerback C.J. Henderson broke up a difficult pass midway through the game, and redshirt freshman linebacker Ventrell Miller had a hard hit on Clement that let coaches know he was for real this year. Freshman safety Amari Burney was active whenever he was on the field, and Mullen even gave him props specifically during the SEC Network broadcast.

5. Jury is still out on special teams: Exit Johnny, enter Tommy. Redshirt junior punter Tommy Townsend only got two opportunities to boot the ball on Saturday, but his first went 55 yards in the air and drove an ovation from the crowd. The kicking game looked shaky, though Florida’s expected starter is not enrolled at this time. Regarding the return game, well, that was nonexistent — by plan — on Saturday. In other words, while there is plenty to (cautiously) write home about from Saturday, this is one phase of the game where a lot still remains to be seen.

4 Comments

  1. Gern Blanston says:

    The first time in ten years the average fan was treated with the respect they deserve ! First time in ten years the program is headed forward ! Foley almost ruined gator football

  2. Paul Gunsaulies says:

    Foley? Urban Liar was the real reason for the downfall by lying about his health (and personal life…) and leaving the cupboard somewhat bare. In such a stacked conference you can’t turn it around over night, we were lucky UG/UT down at the same time so we could back door to a couple of East crowns.

    We now have a coach that checks all the boxes and wants to be in Gainesville, think it’s going to be a fun ride!

  3. Michael Jones says:

    I thought Trask looked like the sharpest, most polished passer, for the reasons Adam said, although he did miss a few easy short throws that would have sprung Toney. Franks is a gamer with a big arm and an almost uncomfortable amount of confidence given that he still misses a lot of throws and still looks like he struggles to make reads, lol. I agree with Adam that it would not be a surprise to see a two QB system this year . .at least early on. I also would not be surprised if Trask proved to be a sleeper running the ball . . he looked pretty mobile at times.

    Clement looked pretty awesome for a true freshman. Always seemed to make the first guy miss.

    Toney is gifted. I am sure Mullen will find a way to get him the ball in space and then, watch out.

    Go Gators!!!

  4. Tom father of Marilyn says:

    All the boxes? Wasn’t he the OC under Urban Liar??? It takes more than FUN to make his offense work in the SEC!!! I don’t think we have the o line for one thing. We won’t be playing against our defence in the real games. We also won’t be able to pad our scores by throwing to coaches or x players or whoever. THE SPRING GAME WAS A JOKE!!! Two straight seasons georgia has signed more 4 and 5 star players than the entire sec east combined!!! 2 years in a row people!!!! The year before that they got a top 5 class. This year they set a new record for 5 star recruits with 7. Yes 7 5 stars led the #1 recruiting class possibly in HISTORY. All this after they crush the east and destroyed the only team that beat them in the season. They won the Sec not just the east!!! They didn’t need a great recruiting class to be great this next season. But they got it anyway. They were already elite and were going to be elite in 2018 also with or without a great class!!! But still they got the #1 class in the country. Many including me feel it was maybe the best EVER single recruiting class!!! As good or better than any class we ever signed!!! FACE IT PEOPLE. While we ask for and get a FUN COACH with a FUN style. They are RUNNING AWAY with the east and maybe college football. We have all been praying for the bama dynasty to end. But we wanted US to end it didn’t we???

    Well it feels like the bama dynasty is finally coming to an end or at least slowing down. But in its place we seem to be getting a bigger possibly badder version of bama in georgia. The worst thing is now we have to deal with 2 monsters for many years to come in our division. Only now one is our #1 rival and to me that is NOT WHAT I CALL FUN!!! I can think of a few things I really do enjoy ummm but can’t talk about. But getting blown out of the stadium by georgia is NOT ONE OF THEM!!!! Again, umm getting a football crammed down our throat is not nearly as fun as well never mind. No throat cramming jokes either guys lol. My point is there are LOTS OF THINGS WE GATOR FANS CAN DO FOR FUN IN OUR SPARE TIME. If we want things crammed down our throat we can always go to the beach and have a banana swallowing contest lol. If we want to play ball for FUN. Let’s go play with balls on the beach which is much more fun. I mean there is sooooo much more to see on a beach. I mean the girls with nice titts and NO I am not saying I like that kind of thing. But I can appreciate something nice to look at I guess. So I’m just saying we can bounce things on the beach and play with balls for FUN there right????

    So why don’t we just STICK TO BUISINESS ON THE FIELD even if it’s not as FUN???? Us girls can play with you guys on the beach and probably kick your asses!!! Or maybe you’ll end up spanking ours!!!! Lol but I’ll bet it will be FUN either way!!! Yes I do have a hot ass before you ask. In fact all off me is pretty hot. But only if you like the natural blonde who is also bleached anyway lol. Yes I’m really a blonde but I do love to bleach I won’t lie. I’m toned, tanned and bleached. I weigh 96 pounds lol. But I’m very short so it evens out. I have big lips too but I guess that’s okay. I’ve been told it’s a nice feature lol. Dad is not on here but I don’t know how to change the info, oh well. Just so you guys know this is Marilyn. : ) Anyway I don’t know if I really like Mullen just yet. So far he has shown me nothing. Just FUN football. But hey guys and ANY GALS who might be on here. This is not the old sec east where we could have fun and still win. WINNING IS FUN ISNT IT??? It takes work to win now. So LISTEN guys AND GALS. We can have fun lots of other ways can’t we??? So let’s stick to business on the field. Fun is for other places imho.

    Marilyn

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