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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.