Observations from Saturday’s open UF football practice

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks throws a pass during Saturday's practice at the Sanders Practice Fields on the UF campus. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

As the Gators began Saturday’s early morning football practice, coach Dan Mullen implored the team to continually question whether or not they’re giving optimal effort.

“Learn to play with maximum effort,” he said. “Strain every rep.”

Despite the chilly weather, Florida appeared to abide by Mullen’s message in a practice that ultimately featured several heated moments.

The session was once again open to the public, and more than 200 fans capitalized on the opportunity to witness Florida’s sixth spring drills at the Sanders Practice Fields. Now in the third padded practice, the Gators increased the live portions at the expense of one-on-one action.

The Gators are expected to hold another open practice Thursday before concluding camp with the spring game on April 13.

Observations from Saturday:

7-on-7

Quarterback Feleipe Franks’ first pass was into double coverage intended for receiver Kadarius Toney, who had a foot on cornerback CJ Henderson. But it fell just short of reaching either player.

On the next play, Franks found receiver Kyle Pitts across the middle for a 35-yard completion. Freshman defensive back Chris Steele provides solid coverage.

Quarterback Emory Jones’ first pass was intercepted by safety Brian Edwards. Jones found receiver Trevon Grimes for a short completion on the very next play with linebacker Ventrell Miller in coverage. Edwards had a tipped interception several plays later on a pass intended for receiver Rick Wells.

Redshirt freshman receiver Jacob Copeland made a 20-yard reception in space from freshman quarterback Jalon Jones.

Steele redeemed himself when Franks rotated back in. The freshman early enrollee defended receiver Van Jefferson on a post route to force the incompletion.

Despite defender Amari Burney holding Kemore Gamble, Franks found the tight end for a 30-yard reception midway through the period.

An early nosebleed didn’t hold out quarterback Kyle Trask. The signal-caller from Manvel, Texas, made several impressive throws during the 7-on-7 period, including putting a pass on the money to a leaping Pitts.

11-on-11

Franks continued his impressive start to spring camp, and he came out confident Saturday. Franks consistently ran the call with confidence, including one sequence where he drew a face mask penalty on transfer Jon Greenard, much to the dismay of the 270-pound defensive lineman.

Franks’ offensive line has remained the same, with Stone Forsythe and Jean Delance holding down the left and right tackle spots, respectively. Delance appeared to hold a blitzing cornerback on one sequence, drawing the ire of assistant coach John Hevesy.

Freshman offensive lineman Ethan White worked with the second-team offense at left guard. Redshirt freshman Richard Gouraige lined up at left tackle and often drew the assignment of junior defensive lineman Zach Carter. The two had several competitive battles throughout the day.

Emory Jones worked with the first team offensive line at times, with Malik Davis next to him in the backfield. Jones showed a tendency to run after his first pass fell short of Wells, and the redshirt freshman took off for a first-down run on the second play of the series.

Jones rolled out to his right and hit Copeland for a 25-yard gain, drawing applause from those in attendance. Copeland, who missed the first week of practice with what Mullen labeled a hamstring injury, didn’t appear to be limited in practice.

Zach Carter, who has worked with both the first and second-string defenses, got into the backfield to bat down Franks’ pass at the line of scrimmage. It was the first of several times Saturday the junior defensive lineman would be in UF’s backfield.

On the very next play, Franks sensed the coverage and hit receiver Tyrie Cleveland for a 20-yard gain along the sideline.

Iverson Clement made several players miss at the line before safety Shawn Davis, who recently returned to practice, delivered a hard tackle before the redshirt freshman running back could get to the next level.

At times, things escalated. White seemingly defended Franks on what the lineman believed was an unnecessarily hard hit by Carter on the quarterback. Franks proceeded to spike the ball at the helmet of Carter, leading several players to join in.

Later, Clement caught a screen pass and spun a defender before he was pushed to the ground by Carter. Clement, seemingly taking offense to the contact, proceeded to get up and toss the ball at Carter. The two playfully jawed back and forth.

Offensive lineman Brett Heggie was limited during the day, and trainers were looking at his right hand near the end of practice. Heggie already had the same arm wrapped prior to practice.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I’m impressed with the number of receivers making plays and not just one or two guys who seemed to barely get open in regular season games. It appears that we have a well balanced offense with the addition of QBs who can run the ball as well. Bring on the Canes! Bring on the Chomp Let’s see what we’ve got. Go GATORS!

  2. It looks as though the receivers are better because the QB play is better. That bodes well for the future of our football team. With the DB’s that we have we know that will make our receivers better and vice versa. The O-line will decide how well we are or are not this season on offense. We have depth, but a lot of youth. Our coaching staff will have this whole football team as ready as humanly possible. It is good to read mostly positive things this year as opposed to many of the last several years. Awesome! GO GATORS!!!

    • Ed, remember the repeated complaints over Gator WRs’ inability to achieve separation from DBs in the bad old days of the McElwhiner regime? That was because, as a QBs and RBs coach, Kerry Dixon, had ZERO experience coaching WRs when McElwhiner hired him out of FIU in 2015. Improved Gator WR play began to be noticed early last season, with the advent of competent WR coaching thanks to Coach Billy Gonzalez.

      Improved QB play, mostly since the USCe game last season, is a force multiplier that should make the entire offense more effective in 2019. Everybody’s greater comfort level with the CDM offense will also improve the effectiveness of the Gator passing game in 2019.

      • Billy Gonzalez is an awesome coach for the wideouts. I actually mat him in an airport, but I don’t remember if it was Atlanta or Newport News, Virginia. I was heading back to Italy from leave and I always wear my GATOR shirts when I travel. I was wore out and he started the conversation between us. I told him that I had a million questions for him, but I was so tired I couldn’t think of any. I finally asked him about the kid that was our backup QB at the time, and he said that he was pretty good backing up Tebow. That backup was Cam Newton before the computer deal. He gave me his card and told me if there was anything inspirational I had to share to drop him an email. I still have the card. He also told me that I had just missed Coach Meyer. They were in Virginia I believe to visit a player there that they wanted. I have sent him several emails, but no response. I suppose I wasn’t inspirational enough…lol. But he is back and our offense will be better for it. GO GATORS!!!

          • StL – I’ve met many famous persons – here are just a few: The Harlem Globetrotters when they had Curley Neal and Meadowlark Lemon. I was probably about 10 y/o. I met Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow when they were in a play called “So Long Stanley.” I have both of their autographs to this day. I met June Lockhart when she was in town for a play she was in. That was when Lost in Space was my daily viewing after school. I met a lot of the NASCAR drivers and I have several autographs on a Days of Thunder jacket that my Mom gave me. There were some NFL p-layers at the track as well, but I can’t remember their names. One was the Redskins QB in the 90’s. I couldn’t get over how big and tall they were. And lets not forget the Father of Brad Pitt. I may have left some out, but those are the ones that I remember as of now. Tex Ritter was another one, but I was like 2-3 y/o. Ok, so more than a few. GO GATORS!!!

    • perhaps the young guard white, along with carter and franks have the nastiness etc. that can help deal with Georgia and some of the other rough situations that arise during a season. QBs sound good, but we finally have a receiving core up to the standards of the past. im not sure how things went backwards there for a few years, but i knew coach Gonzales would really do well and he has.