Florida Gators spring game: 2018 Orange & Blue Debut primer, time, channel, live stream

By Adam Silverstein
April 13, 2018
Florida Gators spring game: 2018 Orange & Blue Debut primer, time, channel, live stream

Image Credit: ESPN Images

Just a few months into a new era, the Florida Gators will take the field Saturday afternoon for the 2018 Orange & Blue Debut, a spring football game that head coach Dan Mullen hopes will be a springboard for Florida football this season and beyond.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the Orange & Blue Debut.

Viewing information

Date: Saturday, April 14 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 88,548]

TV: SEC Network | Streaming: WatchESPN.com, WatchESPN app
SiriusXM: 374 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter


Florida held a roster draft on Friday, so this will not be a traditional first-team vs. second-team game. Check out the top 20 players on each roster below, along with links to full rosters.

Team Orange [full roster]: QB Feleipe Franks, QB Emory Jones, RB Lamical Perine, RB Dameon Pierce, RB Adarius Lemons, WR Joshua Hammond, WR Daquon Green, WR Van Jefferson, TE Kemore Gamble, DT Khairi Clark, DE Antonneous Clayton, DE Jabari Zuniga, DE Jachai Polite, LB Vosean Joseph, LB David Reese, LB Ventrell Miller, CB C.J. Henderson, CB Brian Edwards, S Brad Stewart, S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

Coaches: John Hevesy, Greg Knox, Todd Grantham, Charlton Warren

Team Blue [full roster]: QB Kyle Trask, QB Jake Allen, RB Jordan Scarlett, RB Iverson Clement, WR Trevon Grimes, WR Dre Massey, WR Freddie Swain, WR Kadarius Toney, WR Tyrie Cleveland, TE C’yontai Lewis, TE Moral Stephens, DT Elijah Conliffe, DT Marlon Dunlap, DE Zachary Carter, DE CeCe Jefferson, DE Jeremiah Moon, LB Kylan Johnson, CB Marco Wilson, CB McArthur Burnett, S Quincy Lenton, S Jeawon Taylor

Coaches: Brian Johnson, Larry Scott, Billy Gonzales, Ron English, Sal Sunseri, Charles Robinson

Questions to be answered

Who will be the Gators’ starting quarterback? There are larger, more general offensive issues at hand, but ultimately, everything starts and stops with the signal caller. And Florida, through 14 spring practices, does not appear to have settled on a starter. Redshirt sophomore Feleipe Franks enters as the incumbent, and though he has reportedly flashed during spring practice, he has done nothing to pull away. This has opened the door for classmate Kyle Trask, particularly since freshman Emory Jones has seemingly been unable to push Franks the way many expected he would immediately off the bat. Franks’ performances in spring games are well-known by this point, so it will be interesting to see what kind of effort he can put together on Saturday.

Mullen claims there has not been a ton of separation at this juncture, though he also cautions that he has not been seeking it at this time. “There’s a long time before we have to make any decisions or play a game, so I’m not really concerned about that right now — unless I need to see something, whether in a leadership role or something else.” Mullen did mention, however, that the quarterbacks are handling many of the tough situations well, while it’s the easy ones they are taking for granted. He cited Franks as putting up the best numbers at the last scrimmage.

What’s up with the specialists? This may not seem like a top-two issue to some, but the Gators will be replacing an All-American caliber punter and kicker this season. Couple that with an increased focus on special teams — following an organization that seemed not to care one iota about it — and one should be curious to see what the third phase of the game looks like this spring. Granted, you will not be able to see the special teams perform as the other units, but its contributions to the effort on Saturday should not be overlooked.

Who are the playmakers? It’s legitimate to wonder who’s atop the running back depth chart with sophomore Malik Davis injured, redshirt junior Jordan Scarlett returned from suspension and junior Lamical Perine back for his third season. Similarly, with more importance being placed on tight ends, it is a wonder who will step up out of that group. And of course, there are the wide receviers to consider. Junior Tyrie Cleveland has missed most of spring, sophomore transfer Trevon Grimes has impressed but may not be eligible for Week 1, redshirt senior Dre Massey is still returning from injury, and redshirt junior transfer Van Jefferson awaits word on whether he will be eligible after leaving Ole Miss. The rest of the receiving crops has not been overly impressive, though it is clear sophomore Kadarius Toney is planning to make a major impact one way or another.

Is the linebacking situation ready to shake out? While the defensive line and secondary once again look like they are going to be solid in 2018, concern remains regarding a linebacking unit that was under-manned last season. Junior David Reese is a no-brainer in the middle, but there remain a variety of issues with junior Vosean JosephKylan Johnson, redshirt junior Rayshad Jackson and redshirt freshman Ventrell Miller. Saturday’s spring game could go a long way to deciding who actually lines up next to Reese by the time action starts next fall.

Will the offensive line be fixed? Finally?

Which freshman will stand out? Aside from Jones being given the opportunity to take snaps — most of which will come in the second half — there’s a number of first-year players set to debut in the spring game. Freshmen running backs Dameon Pierce and Iverson Clement will have a chance to show out as part of a loaded backfield. Redshirt freshman defensive end Zachary Carter did not see action a year ago but could join the linebackers as an impact younger, as could first-year defensive back Trey Dean, who may find a way to see playing time right off the bat next season.

Will anyone on the defense flash? It’s always tough on the defense in spring games considering they are unable to sack the passer and often play relatively limited schemes on the back end. Despite all of that, Florida has seen defenders show out in the past. The Gators’ secondary could plausibly wreak havoc on the young quarterbacks, which could be an encouraging — or downright awful — sign for the upcoming season, depending which side of the coin you sit on entering Saturday.

Odds and ends

» To head coach Dan Mullen‘s credit, he has done everything in power to ensure as many Florida fans as possible fill The Swamp on Saturday. Mullen has visited fraternities, sororities and local on-campus groups, pitched local and in-state fans on attending and publicly stated that he expects “a lot more” than the Gators’ record of 65,000 fans to attend the game. “We want a lot more than that,” he said when told of the record. “We’ll be there. We’ll be going hard. We’ll be giving relentless effort. The question is who else in the Gator Nation is going to be giving relentless effort on Saturday? That’s their challenge.”

He continued: “There’s a process for us to get the program exactly where we need it to be, which to me is a championship-level program,” Mullen said. “… If we have a packed stadium — it really starts with the student body creating the energy and the excitement — our fanbase, if we have all those people out there, as a player you’re going to play harder. That’s a huge part that’s going to lift up the team is the energy. … It’s easier to go harder. Just naturally, you go faster. … Whether it’s this coming weekend or it’s every weekend in the fall, we’re going to have some of the [high school] best players in the best players in America coming to visit to see what gameday is like in The Swamp. Then they’re going to leave and go to visit other top programs and compare the two. We want to make sure when they walk out of here, whether it’s our spring game or whoever it is we’re playing — every single game you walk into The Swamp — it’s the most electric atmosphere in college football.”

» Two boosters will serve as celebrity coaches for the game. They will have an opportunity to call the type of plays, while the assistants on each team will actually decide the specific plays.

» Mullen said Monday that Florida’s final scrimmage ahead of the Orange & Blue Debut was “good,” featuring “better football as a whole,” though he cautioned that the Gators still need to “improve understanding game situations and how to play out the scrimmage.” In other words, the team still needs to learn how to capitalize on situations — on both sides of the ball. “This time next year, there will be a lot of guys that understand it,” he said. “… Now, you have an entire team of new guys trying to figure that out.”

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