Unlike a year ago at this time, when dazed and confused seemed to be the early QB theme, Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Emory Jones showed in Florida’s first spring scrimmage Thursday that they are now confident, competent and certainly capable of moving the offense.
All three got reps with the No. 1 offense. All three threw touchdown passes. All three were sharp at times moving the offense down the field and into the end zone.
“Last spring about this time, we were still learning the offense,” Trask said. “This is all new to us. Now that we’ve been here for a whole year, we’ve taken tremendous amounts of big steps in the right direction.
“It went pretty good (today). You’re always chasing perfection; there are a couple of things we can clean up. But, overall, the quarterback room did a good job today.”
It certainly did, starting with the starter (even though Franks has not officially been named yet).
Franks, who really came on strong in the latter half of last season, had a five-yard touchdown run, threw a 52-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Josh Hammond and finished the day with nine completions in 14 attempts for 138 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
He appeared poised, confident and very much in command of the offense, often going through his progressions to find open receivers.
“I do think this has been my most productive offseason,” Franks said. “No.1, I’ve been more comfortable in everything I’m doing. Watching film, up there learning from coach (Brian) Johnson and coach (Dan) Mullen. And out there on the field, being more comfortable being a leader, more comfortable making throws and just knowing the offense. Comfortable all around.”
Franks said he’s been working hard on his accuracy, and that effort appeared evident in the scrimmage. He was on target with most of his throws.
“I’m more confident,” Franks said. “There’s always something I want to work on. I’ve always wanted to work on accuracy. I’ve gotten better with accuracy, giving the receivers a chance to make a play on the ball, not over throwing, giving them a 50-50 chance.”
Trask was also on target most of the afternoon.
He threw a three-yard TD pass to Tyrie Cleveland, an eight-yard touchdown pass to Kadarius Toney and completed 11 of 21 passes for 123 yards.
“They say every job is open right now,” Trask said. “I’m just focusing on what I can do to help the team, working to the best of my ability.
“We’re all getting better. We’re all taking big steps in the right direction. We’ve made a lot of progress.”
Of the three quarterbacks, Jones was the one who was the most lost last spring, which was expected because he was a true freshman who still could have been in high school.
Although Jones struggled some with his accuracy (and with a few drops by his receivers), he threw an 11-yard TD strike to tight end Kemore Gamble and had electrifying runs of 20 and 24 yards. His overall numbers may not look all that good — five-of-16 for 79 yards and a TD — but he’s clearly much more polished and much more confident than a year ago, when he was underwater.
“It’s like night and day,” Franks said of Jones’ improvement. “He’s learning the offense, learning how to manage a drive, just ultimately being a better quarterback. It comes with time, you just keep getting better and better.”
And the better the quarterbacks get, the deeper Mullen can dive into his playbook. More of it certainly will be revealed in the fall because the QBs appear ready to handle it.
“As you learn the offense, you’re able to utilize it more to your advantage,” Franks said.
The quarterbacks certainly weren’t in this position a year ago.
“Last year, we were just learning,” Trask said. “We really couldn’t get into, I don’t want to say the fancy part of the playbook, but we were very basic. Now that we have the basics, we can take the next steps and keep the defense off guard in certain things.”
NOTES: The defense also produced multiple impressive plays in the scrimmage. Sophomore defensive end Zachary Carter was dominant at times and had three sacks and numerous hurries. Safety Brad Stewart was all over the field making plays. He intercepted a Franks pass and returned it about 40 yards. Linebackers James Houston, Lacedrick Brunson and true freshman Mohamoud Diabate all recorded sacks. Linebacker Umstead Sanders recovered a fumble, while true freshman linebacker Jesiah Pierre had a big tackle for loss.