Dooley: Ways to go, but positives to build on

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Gators quarterback Kyle Trask throws during spring practice with new head coach Dan Mullen, at the Sanders Practice Fields on the UF campus in Gainesville. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

This is what we learned by watching Friday’s Gator football scrimmage at The Swamp — when Dan Mullen says three hours, he means three hours.

As advertised, the Gators’ first scrimmage of the spring went right up to the 6:30 p.m. mark despite rain, turnovers and the occasional flag from an official.

It wasn’t pretty, but scrimmages rarely are after a handful of practices in a brand new offense.

It was probably a good thing that it was closed to the public, because most fans would have left grumbling, not sticking around dodging plump raindrops for the late-scrimmage offensive explosion fueled by defenders slipping and a busted coverage.

Because the media was permitted to watch along with some recruits and a few others, here’s what I can tell you — everything I thought before the spring is pretty much what I thought after this scrimmage.

Florida is loaded at tailback. Adarius Lemons had the highlight of the day when he broke outside and outraced the defense for an 89-yard touchdown. Jordan Scarlett still looks like an NFL-ready running back. Dameon Pierce is tough to bring down.

Florida needs receivers Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes to become eligible.

Florida’s defense might be elite. It’s always difficult to tell from scrimmages, because the defenders kind of know what’s coming because they have been practicing against the UF offense. But it might be really good.

Mullen knows how to get tight ends open.

Florida’s quarterback situation is up in the air, but it feels like a two-man battle between Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask.

On Friday, Trask had the better day statistically. Neither quarterback was particularly sharp, which is understandable. The read-option wasn’t really a read option because the quarterback almost never kept the ball so the defense couldn’t be fooled.

All we know for sure is that nobody was happier to be playing football in the rain than Trask, who sat out all of last season with a foot injury and has yet to take a college snap.

“It feels great,” Trask said. “I’ve been hurt since fall camp so I love being out there. It’s fun. I feel like I’m doing a good job. It’s not my call.”

There are a lot of fans out there who want the quarterback to be that guy named Not-Feleipe-Franks. His struggles last year opened the door for Trask, a door that might have opened last season if not for the injury.

“It was tough knowing I had an opportunity,” he said. “But stuff happens.”

It does and because so much of it happened last season, there’s a new coaching staff in Gainesville. Which brings us to the other position group that is crucial to any kind of success Florida might have this year.

In fact, it was fitting that the two positions offered up to the media after the scrimmage were the quarterbacks and the offensive line (this coming only after the offense had to run sprints while the defense headed to the locker room).

We know the long history of quarterback failure at UF since the glory days of Tim Tebow.

But let’s face it. If the offensive line isn’t any good, the quarterback play is almost irrelevant.

And we can’t help but remember last year when Jim McElwain was giving verbal massages to his offensive line in the preseason only to see it manhandled in Arlington, Texas, in Game 1 and never be the kind of dominant line he thought it would be.

“We’re way more mature,” said senior guard Tyler Jordan. “We’re all a lot older. We can beat any defensive line. We have a camaraderie and a bond. You have brothers you can fall back on.”

On paper, with three senior starters, Florida should have one of the better lines in the SEC. But age and experience aren’t the only weapons a lineman needs in his holster.

“It’s about execution, a commitment to learning football,” said tackle Martez Ivey. “Understanding why we’re running this play, knowing where the ball is going at all times.”

That would help.

So would a little chip on the shoulder of an offensive line that hasn’t received a lot of respect over the last couple of years and for good reason.

Nobody is asking for the Great Wall of 1984. They are just asking for a chance.

“Right now we’re planting the seeds and waiting for the flowers to grow,” Ivey said. “It’s our last chance to get it right, to do what we came here to do. We didn’t come here to be 4-7.”

And yet …

“If we come out slow, the whole offense is going to come out slow,” Ivey said. “We got the most guys on the field. We got five guys out there. If we don’t have energy, nobody is going to have energy.”

Alfred Tennyson wrote back before there were spring practices, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”

It also turns to the dreams of what could be. Friday was a messy first step. You have to squint really hard to see what players like Ivey think it could be.

But it’s early.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

29 COMMENTS

    • Jackah. Darrenn O’Day with the Orioles, Mike Zunino with the Mariners, and Anthony Sclafani with the Reds are the only three former Gators on MLB rosters on opening day this year. Less than last year and far less than some other SEC teams like LSU and Kentucky. But the Gators will still carry the National Championship banner this year.

      • Funny thing, though, Jachah. The SEC provided the above names of former Florida players on opening day MLB rosters and it included the above names. The Googled list did not include Preston Tucker. So, I am not 100 percent sure of the accuracy of my post, or should I say the Googled information provided in the list of players.

  1. Flash update on the O-line:
    Nothing to see here… move along.
    All you experienced seniors with all the reps – where are you? Who are you? You will have to show Gator Nation if you’re any good. Until you get something done, you still suck.

  2. Uh oh. I must admit I am in the “show me” camp. The article sounded as if things are pretty much the same. The good thing is we really can’t be ANY worse…Time will tell but excuse me for not doing cartwheels yet….

  3. Here’s the biggest difference between this year and last: our online knows they need to get better. Last year no matter how terrible they played, Captain Yellowteeth ran around gushing with praise for how great they were, and how they would be a bone crushing juggernaut that would leave every defensive line we faced a broken, bloody mess, writhing in agony. In realty they sucked, and Yellowteeth did nothing to help them get better.

    Just look at how much they weren’t even being taught basic football before. It’s a new thing that they should actually know the plays? Where the ball is going? That is fundamental, but it will take time and for awhile there will be smoke coming out of their ear holes as they have to think more, but it will all become habit with practice and then the physical execution will follow. These guys want to get better, and they are getting honest coaching instead of the deluded lies of a loser, so they have a great chance.

    As for QB, I have to wonder if Pat is a Franks fanatic because what he saw itsn’t reflected by the numbers:

    Trasks numbers as per the other article: 12-of-18 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns.

    I’ll take that for a half any day. Not sure what Pat’s defintion of sharp would be, but it is odd he felt they competed about equally given Franks completed less than 50% of his passes and threw two picks.

    Oh, well… Maybe UAA issued instructions for how the scrimmage should be reported.

    • If you haven’t yet figured out that Franks is as intelligent as a box of rocks, you haven’t been paying attention. I can’t see a reason why the “Curse” will end this year with a dope like him being the likely starter at QB.

      • TheTebowCurse. You are the dope. I have met and talked to Franks at practices a couple of times and he comes across to me as an intelligent young man. I have read your posts on here multiple times, and you come across as exactly the opposite. And getting it or not getting it as a QB on a football field is not necessarily related to getting it inside a classroom. Apple and Orange comparison, but I do not expect someone like you to understand that logic.

  4. ”Florida’s defense might be elite. It’s always difficult to tell from scrimmages…”
    -Pat Dooley. (March 30, ’18)
    ”There weren’t many standouts on defense aside from the players with picks, although sophomore corner Brian Edwards, a Miramar High grad, made an impressive tackle on Pierce.”
    ”While no stats were kept, it was clear that defense dominated the first half. In what turned into a festival of turnovers, Florida’s top quarterbacks got intercepted and/or fumbled, while few points were put on the board.”
    ”Fellow redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask had a better day (than Franks), with a higher completion percentage, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions.”
    -By Ethan Bauer, Miami Herald Writer. (March 30, ’18)

    It’s roughly halfway through Mullen’s 1st spring practice, and it sounds like (from 2 different papers) everything most Florida football fans already knew. But I do give Mullen huge props for letting the media into the stadium to report on his 1st scrimmage. But no predictions from me, as I NEVER saw the 2006 team winning it all coming (in the spring of ’06). And any Gator fan who says they did is lying.
    So get busy, fellas… and Go Gators!

  5. Tell Franks to move to wide receiver.
    Play anyone else at QB.
    Coach if you want Gator nation behind you do not let Franks start next fall and play like welllllllllllllll!!!!!!!
    Like he does!!!!!!!

  6. I was at two games last year and when you go and watch a game in person you see things you don’t see on TV like the lack of coaching. You could see the team had no coaching and game plans were non existent. If Mullen and crew can just coach this team will be much better. Coaching was non-existent during Mac and Muschamp only knew defense. So bring on the coaching Coach Mullen.

  7. Yes – it is high time that our offensive line become forged into a single unit – five men, no longer boys – strong in will and body, ready to dominate and protect – time to shine as the core and heart of the Gator offense – it starts with the O-line and YOU are the O-line, so it starts with YOU – GATOR DONE!!!

  8. I found comments elsewhere that Mullen gave a halftime speech along the lines of, “If you expect to play bad, you will play bad. Be great.” So much of sports is mental, and if these athletically talented kids get in the right frame of mind, anything’s possible. Mullen might be able to achieve that. McElwain couldn’t. So much is attitude. As George Clinton put it, “Free your mind and your ass will follow.” Go Gators!

  9. I am bothered by Felipe Franks apparent desire to make excuses for poor performances. He talked about the weather yesterday as if it was a contributing factor to his poor statistics. Kyle Trask played in the same weather, yet his statistics were much better. In order to be a leader you have to take responsibility for your play when it is below par. Franks will never get better if he continues to attempt to make excuses for his poor performances.

  10. Trask will be our qb but won’t shoulder the load because UF will run the ball a lot…I think he’s going to show that he can make passes to give the offense balance.. we’re not expecting Danny W. but someone who can give us a decent passing game.

  11. What an arrogant and pathetic fan base we have . I can imagine the coaching staff in their staff meetings talking about the idiots we have on this forum. I have confidence in these guys will shut up you knuckleheads once and for all. The hell with ya.

    • That’s never going to happen. There’s a huge part of this fan base that is never happy. Hell Mullen’s own wife talked about it in an interview while at MSU. Here’s her exact quote: “The former school where we were at before, we won championships there, won practically every single game we played for four years there,” Megan Mullen said. “It wasn’t if we won or lost. It was if we didn’t score 43 points or more, I was going to the grocery store in Orlando where I worked with the Golf Channel and I was driving the groceries back to Gainesville, because it was that bad.” This is during national championship runs. So don’t get your hopes up with this fan base fully shutting up.

  12. 1. Measuring the defensive line based on how they beat our offensive line is a joke. An old joke.

    2. All fan skepticism is justified until the team proves something competing against anyone other than our second team. Little has been proven on the field in a long time.