Notebook: Plenty of trick plays highlight Orange & Blue Game

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Orange receiver Kadarius Toney (4) outruns Blue Gators defensive back Quincy Lenton (27) during the annual Orange & Blue Game on Saturday on Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent

Earlier this week, Florida coach Dan Mullen hinted he had some tricks up his sleeve for Saturday’s Orange & Blue Game.

He pulled out his Joker card on the first play from scrimmage.

Mullen ran a double reverse with wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who threw a 40-yard pass to quarterback Feleipe Franks. Toney capped off the drive with a 14-yard TD reception from Franks.

He finished with four catches for 94 yards, along with his completion.

“KT is a weapon,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said of Toney’s performance. “You can move him all over the field. We didn’t do a lot with him, he played all receiver other than the pass on the first play of the game.

“But he’s a guy that causes problems, that we can move to different positions and find ways to get the ball in his hands.”

Toney, a former high school quarterbacks who goes by the nickname “Joka”, is no stranger to trick plays with the Gators.

Last season in Florida’s 13-6 win at Mississippi State, Toney threw the game-winning 20-yard touchdown on a double pass. During his freshman year, he launched a 50-yard bomb to wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland against Kentucky.

He finished 2018 with 500 yards of total offense, rushing 21 times for 240 yards and hauling in 25 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown. Mullen expects Toney to be even more productive this fall.

“When he’s in the game, you’re just finding a way to hand the ball to him or throw him a screen or one of these deals,” Mullen said of Toney last week. “It’s very different than when he can be a productive, every- down receiver as a position player. I think he is making strides at that.”

Pick-six for Huggins

Florida defensive back John Huggins has been a breakout player in practices this spring, and he showed out once again Saturday in the Orange & Blue Game.

On the first offensive series for the Blue squad, backup quarterback Kyle Trask drove the offense into scoring territory. But on second-and-6 from the 22, Huggins stepped in front of Trask’s sideline pass and made the interception, taking it the distance for an 80-yard pick-six.

“He ran a five-yard out cut and they don’t normally throw it in practice,” Huggins said of the play. “He decided to throw it, and I undercut it and just took it to the house. It’s big for me, just letting the coaches know I can play, that I can solidify myself here at the University of Florida, at DBU.”

Huggins made a position switch this offseason from safety to the ‘Star’ nickel spot, where the Gators lost starter Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to the 2019 NFL draft. Fellow sophomore defensive back Trey Dean III also made the move to nickel and will likely take over as the starter, but Huggins should get plenty of action as well.

“He made a great play on the ball,” Mullen said of Huggins’ pick-six. “He’s a guy that obviously has great athletic ability as a young player coming in last year. You want to see it now — understanding the defense and really getting comfortable playing the nickel position and getting those reps and being able to play at a higher level.”

Chris Doering, Lito Sheppard score

For the second straight year, a pair of Gator Greats scored in the spring game.

Early in the second quarter, Franks was “intercepted” by former UF cornerback Lito Sheppard on a designed play. Nonetheless, it was a moment of nostalgia for Florida fans as Sheppard returned it for a 36-yard touchdown.

On the first scoring play of the second half, former Florida wide receiver Chris Doering took a break from SEC Network duties and came off the sideline to catch a pass from walk-on quarterback Nick Sproles. Doering ran uncontested into the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown and laid the ball up over the goal post.

In last year’s spring game, former UF defensive back Lawrence Wright (1993-96) made a diving grab on a Kyle Trask pass to score a 48-yard touchdown. Former Gators receiver Travis McGriff (1995-98) also caught a 60-yard TD from Franks.

This and that

** Several ex-Gators were on hand Saturday in addition to Doering and Sheppard. Former offensive linemen Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and wide receiver Deonte Thompson all made their return to The Swamp for the spring game. Bryan Kornblau (Orange) and Tommy Shannon (Blue) served as the honorary guest coaches.

** Mullen said earlier this week he has fudged spring game attendance numbers in the past to take shots at other schools. Saturday’s announced crowd was 39,476. When asked if those digits had any significance, Mullen responded, “Yeah, there is. I’ll let you guys figure it out. You guys think about it and get back to me.” Any guesses?

** The spring game was a big recruiting weekend for Mullen and his staff. More than 60 unofficial visitors are on campus, including five-star defender Darnell Washington (Las Vegas). The Gators landed a pledge Saturday from three-star athlete Jaheim Bell from Valdosta, Ga. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Bell committed to Florida over Auburn and Florida State.