After all three Florida quarterbacks graded out as champions in the final fall scrimmage last week, speculation has been growing that the slumbering offense has finally woken up and is starting to make plays.
Well, forget about speculation. There are some reliable sources out there who can fill everyone in on just how much progress the QBs and the offense have made over the past three weeks.
The defensive players, who compete against the offense every day in practice.
They should know if the offense has gotten better and grown more potent. They say it has.
“I believe so,” junior linebacker David Reese said. “During practice I kind of like the way they sped up their tempo and I kind of like the challenges they’ve been giving us
with the different looks and the RPOs, things that I haven’t seen before.
“So, I’m excited to figure out what that’s about and how much better our offense is going to be.”
When you’re talking offense, of course, it starts with the quarterbacks.
Based on recent comments from coach Dan Mullen and the defensive players, Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Emory Jones have made impressive strides and appear much more comfortable and efficient in the offense than they did at the start of camp.
“The quarterbacks look really great,” sophomore cornerback Marco Wilson said. “I think the coaches are doing a good job with them. It’s a big difference between last year. They make better decisions. Even their ball placement (is better).
“They throw some balls that are really hard to get to. Although I might get beat sometimes on those, I sit back and think, ‘That’s a good deal because now in the game they might do that, and it’ll be harder for those guys to turn over the ball.’ ”
The quarterbacks also appear to be getting more help from the skill position players — running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.
The Gators seem to have more overall talent at all three positions than in recent years.
More talent usually means more positive plays, and the defensive players have seen that in practice.
“(The talent level) has definitely improved,” Reese said. “Van (Jefferson) and Trey (Grimes) are two great guys that can help us out. Our running backs. … they’re good running backs in that room. It’s probably the deepest in the SEC.
“So, I’m excited to see what we can do. I feel like we could hand the ball off every play and be able to beat people.”
Led by junior Jordan Scarlett, the Gators appear to have more depth and talent at running back than they’ve had in quite some time.
Behind Scarlett are four others pushing for playing time and carries — Lamical Perine, Adarius Lemons, Dameon Pierce and Iverson Clement.
All five running backs have been making plays in practice.
“We have so many backs, it’s crazy,” junior linebacker Vosean Joseph said. “You go in the store and just pick out whoever you want, play whoever you want. They all will contribute to the team. You’ve got Jordan, Adarius, you’ve got Pierce, you’ve got Lamical, you’ve got so many. It’s crazy.
“All of them have taken their game to another level. Them boys come out every day and they’re physical, all of them have a chip on their shoulder. No matter who it is, they’re running through the hole at full speed. If you don’t buckle up or aren’t on point, that’s it.”
At wide receiver, the addition of the two transfers — Grimes and Jefferson — has been an upgrade. They’ve probably been the top two receivers throughout camp. But they are not alone.
The guys who were already here — Tyrie Cleveland, Kadarius Toney, Josh Hammond, Freddie Swain, Dre Massey and others — also ahve been making plays.
“All of them, I love all the receivers,” Wilson said. “They give me great work every day, and I think that’s really important. Being competitive each day gets you better because when I go out on the field, I know I’m not going to see receivers that are better than the ones I see in practice.”
Cornerback Brian Edwards concurs.
“They bring it every day and I love competing with them,” Edwards said.
All those receivers are going to have to share the ball with the tight ends, who figure to be an integral part of Mullen’s offense.
Senior C’yontai Lewis has had a good camp and he’s been pushed by Moral Stephens, Kemore Gamble and the two true freshmen — Kyle Pitts and Dante Lang.
“They handle their business and they contribute to the team a lot,” Joseph said. “They’re all physical, they’re all athletic.”
So, there you have it, a pretty good evaluation of the offense by those who should know — the defensive players.
Who: Charleston Southern Buccaneers vs. Florida Gators
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, 98.1-FM, AM-850
Scouting CSU: The Buccaneers have 16 returning starters from a Big South Conference team that went 6-5 in coach Mark Tucker’s first season. … Bucs have little depth on the defensive line, but secondary could be one of the school’s best ever … Special teams is a strength with veteran kickers returning.
Did you know? Florida will wear its traditional home uniforms for the season opener — blue tops with white pants.
Tickets: Visit FloridaGators.com. Fans may also call the Gator Ticket Office at 375-4683 or visit it on the west side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.