Scoring showcase: Gators offense has fun in spring practice finale

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks makes a catch in the first quarter off a pass from Kadarius Toney during a trick play in Saturday's Orange & Blue Game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

Florida coach Dan Mullen talked earlier in the week about making sure the Gators concluded their spring with one big fun afternoon in The Swamp.

The Gators did just that Saturday in their spring game. They had tons of fun.

But it’s fun that comes with a big “if” beside it.

Fun if you were a quarterback or a wide receiver or a tight end or an offensive coach like Mullen.

Not so much fun if you were a safety or a cornerback or Todd Grantham, the defensive coordinator.

But, then again, Grantham knew this was coming for his side of the ball.

“I think he comes to grips before he gets to here that it’s going to happen,” Mullen said.

Mullen and his staff created the perfect offensive storm for Saturday’s game, sending out a veteran, proven quarterback, Feleipe Franks, and a group of talented and experienced receivers against a defense that was missing some players in the secondary and was limited to playing just four basic coverages.

That perfect storm blew hard through the stadium on a hot afternoon.

The teams combined for 95 points, 920 total yards, 762 yards passing and nine touchdown passes.

That’s a lot of offensive fun, and the announced 39,476 in attendance at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium seemed to enjoy all of it.

“I think you are looking at (offensive) guys who are more comfortable with the system,” Mullen said. “We had some DBs down and held some guys out (on defense). Then you have a veteran quarterback and receivers. A lot of points that we put up were explosive plays through the air. That’s guys who are older, more experienced and know how to play within the system.

“We didn’t make a lot of defensive calls. If you’re going to be vanilla on defense and put a veteran quarterback on the field and say, ‘They’re only going to run these four defenses,’ before the ball is snapped, they can pick you apart. It was good to see them do that.”

 All that offensive fun included a near-flawless performance by Franks, who led the Orange to a 65-30 win over the Blue. The junior, who ended last season on a roll, threw for 327 yards and four touchdowns.

His TD throws were for 65 and 61 yards to Trevon Grimes,  14 yards to Kadarius Toney and eight yards to Van Jefferson. Franks also had a 40-yard reception and rushed for a touchdown.

“It was fun,” Franks said. “I’m playing with confidence, but at the same time, executing. The offense did a good job, young guys stepping up, offensive line, receivers. Just getting the job done.

“We have a veteran receiving corps. It’s one of the high points of our offense. I know they’re going to do their job each and every play. I’m confident in them doing their job and they’re confident in me doing my job.”

Jefferson said Franks’ performance is a reflection of the way Franks has performed throughout the spring.

“Feleipe today was just on target,” Jefferson said. “He’s been like that all spring, throwing balls left and right. He’s really matured. He’s going to do that in the fall, and he’s going to do that in the season.”

It was a big day for Franks, but maybe even a bigger day for Grimes, who had a breakout performance. The Ohio State transfer caught four passes for 195 yards and the two long touchdowns.

“Feleipe helps me out a lot,” Grimes said. “Great reads. I give all glory to him and the linemen, coaches and strength staff. All of them helped me do what I did today.”

Grimes wasn’t the only receiver or tight end with a productive day. Toney, Freddie Swain, Tyrie Cleveland and Kyle Pitts all had four or more receptions. Swain and Cleveland both had two touchdown receptions for the Blue.

And Franks wasn’t the only quarterback with a positive performance. Junior Kyle Trask threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, while redshirt freshman Emory Jones threw for 117 yards and two touchdowns and led the Orange in rushing with 38 yards, including a 26-yard run.

“Second time going through the offense this spring,” Jones said. “We feel more comfortable in the system and we’re all getting better with more experience.

“Today was all about going out and having fun in front of our fans, just showing them what we’ve been doing this whole spring.”

The game — and the fun — belonged to the offense. But the defense also made some plays, the highlight being an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown by sophomore defensive back John Huggins. The pick came against Trask.

“(The receiver) ran an out route, and I already knew he was going to,” Huggins said. “They normally don’t throw it, but (Trask) threw it. It was to the wide side of the field, so I knew I had time to undercut it. I did and took it to the house.”

A little defensive fun on a day where most of it went to the offense — pretty much by design.

“When you’re going to evaluate (the game) defensively, you’re going to evaluate whether our guys are going hard,” Mullen said.


Up next

What: Season opener

Who: Florida vs. Miami

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 24

Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


6 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think our defense lacks any confidence coming out of Spring practices and the O&B game. There’s no intent for the defense to go out and shutdown the offense in an exhibition event. Besides, they’ve carried the offense at UF for a few years now and know it.

    For a Spring game, offense is what Gator fans want to see. Our team delivered.

    We need the offense as a unit to build knowledge, confidence and experience right now. Everyone knows the o-line is the initial challenge. It won’t help in their rapid development to have the Gator defense humiliate them in from of the home fans.

    In Mullen’s second year, there’s a jump in offensive capability that’s anticipated and expected. As the season progresses, the line will come together and improve to better match the talent level at other offensive positions. We will see the return of a potent and consistent Gator offense this season. The O & B game reflected those developments.

    • Mtn, saw some good stuff with the OL yesterday. Saw some players getting reps as Orange and Blue. Of course those were clothes.choreographed to let the coaches see what they were looking for. If the 2s 3s come along fast enough to fill in they’ll be a strength this year.

  2. Wasn’t that the defense we were playing during the McLoser years?

    Honestly, the only issue for our defense is where Polite was. He had a uniquely good year. Other than that, we should be pretty much as good or better this year at every other spot. I think our run defense should be better and our pass defense may be much better with the right linebacker in the game. Reese can’t cover well but we already know that. It’s the other linebacker spot that could be big improvement.

    65% of the question on the team is on OL. 30% is qb(can Franks be consistently good?). 5% the rest of the team.

    • I’d say that’s a pretty fair assessment from your perspective, David — mine is a tad different c regards to the OL and in particular Franks. Acknowledge that it’s hard to tell in this type of game and you certainly have to be keen to certain indicators, but those that I was able to pluck out made me think that things will not be that dire for the OL when all is said and done. That is, I’m thinking that they may “come of age” (in SEC context) perhaps before the Auburn game. We’ll see if you’re right or I’m right, I suppose. Now, c respect to Franks and his development — same nuances applied for this type of scrimmage — I don’t agree fully that he’s 30% questionable. StL’s in depth analysis of him notwithstanding, and again taking in to consideration a limited opposing defense, I saw a lot more improvement in him. I think he’s on the verge of a huge compensation for his processing liabilities in terms of accuracy and especially in terms of running with power. Again, we’ll see if that’s true early on.

      I sure hope Cody Alan was there yesterday and will see fit to post his impressions too.