Observations from first UF football practice in pads

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask throws during the first spring practice in pads Saturday at the Sanders Practice Facility on the UF campus. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent

To the delight of Florida’s defense, the Gators held their first spring football practice in full pads Saturday.

The first-team defensive unit danced and shouted in excitement when they first took the field for 11-on-11, setting the stage for an intense period.

The session was open to the media and season-ticket holders, with more than 150 fans making their way to the Sanders Practice Fields.

Two more sessions will be open to the public on March 23 and 27.

Observations from Saturday:


* Quarterback Emory Jones found wide receiver Kadarius Toney on a corner route with cornerback Trey Dean III in coverage. Dean had a pass breakup later in the period.

* Jones uncorked a perfect pass to receiver Trevon Grimes down the sideline over cornerback CJ Henderson.

* Starting QB Feleipe Franks threw a deep bomb to Toney and also hooked up with tight-end-turned-receiver Kyle Pitts.

* Freshman cornerback Chris Steele was beaten by receiver Tyrie Cleveland on a short pass, but locked him down during another rep.


* Franks hit Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain on corner routes before throwing a long touchdown pass to Toney.

* Franks also had a nice pass to Pitts over the middle. He did take a coverage sack during his first rep.

* Jones delivered a strike to Van Jefferson on a slant route and also threw a beautiful ball to Cleveland, who later dropped a pass from QB Kyle Trask.

* Trask found a wide-open Hammond streaking down the sideline for a touchdown. Trask also went deep to walk-on Andres Saldivar.

* Freshman quarterback Jalon Jones struggled with his accuracy and threw one wobbly duck, but completed a pass to Toney on a crossing route.

* Cornerbacks C.J. McWilliams, Nick Oelrich (walk-on) and Steele all had pass breakups during the period.


* The offensive line will be one of Florida’s biggest position battles this spring. The starters Saturday were left tackle Stone Forsythe, left guard Brett Heggie, center Nick Buchanan, right guard Chris Bleich and right tackle Jean Delance.

* Steele and redshirt sophomore defensive end Zachary Carter received reps with the first-team defense.

* Redshirt freshman wideout Jacob Copeland (hamstring) took part in walkthroughs and made a reception.

* Franks threw well-timed passes to Jefferson and Pitts, but an ill-advised one to former Louisville linebacker Jonathan Greenard. The graduate transfer read Franks’ eyes and jumped in front of his pass to make the interception.

* Franks had a couple QB keepers and on one play trucked Oelrich, causing him to cough up the ball for a second before corralling it and continuing to run.

* Trask completed passes to Jefferson, Saldivar and Grimes, which was an impressive throw. Trask also ran the option and pitched it to running back Iverson Clement. Clement lost a fumble during 11-on-11.

* Emory Jones connected with Cleveland on a post route and Jefferson on an out route, while scrambling to find Swain on another play.

* Starting tailback La’ Mical Perine looked smooth as ever carrying the ball, bouncing a few runs to the outside for big gains and taking one to the house.

* Sophomore RB Dameon Pierce was stuffed several times, with Dean and linebacker Ventrell Miller bringing him down on tackles for loss. Pierce eventually broke free for a long touchdown run.

* Malik Davis took a huge hit from safety Brad Stewart and was tackled in the backfield on separate stops by defensive tackles Elijah Conliffe and Kyree Campbell.

* Miller and fellow linebackers Lacedrick Brunson and David Reese all broke up passes during this period.

* Near the end of practice, Brad Stewart dislocated his finger and came over to the sideline. A trainer popped it back in place and Stewart continued playing.


  1. OK – we have a team that is getting after it. They must practice hard to prepare to play hard. That is the life in the SEC. Keep getting after it young men…we are watching you. No pressure. GO GATORS!!!

  2. “Franks threw well-timed passes to Jefferson and Pitts, but an ill-advised one to former Louisville linebacker Jonathan Greenard. The graduate transfer read Franks’ eyes and jumped in front of his pass to make the interception.”

    This has always been Franks’ Achilles heel. He locks his eyes on his primary receivers at the LOS, thereby allowing defenders to “read his eyes and jump in front of his passes.” Just like Ryan Tannehill in Miami, he can’t seem to learn to look elsewhere first and come back to his primary receiver after defenders follow his eyes to the wrong guy. He’ll never be able to get away with that against the likes of Alabama, LSU and Clemson, whose DBs are every bit as good as UF’s.

    • StL – I tend to agree with you as Franks does make a bad habit out of showing his hand. I wonder if there could be plays called to help off set Frankl’s bad habits. This is a wide open practice, so let’s see if Franks keeps the starting gig. CDM has a front row seat and will do what is absolutely best for the team. GO GATORS!!!

      • Ed, I don’t believe Franks will lose the starting job during spring or summer practices. It would be disruptive to the team that has come together around him and CDM knows it.

        Franks’ bad passing habits will be somewhat offset by his better, more frequent running, most of the time. If the revamped OL comes together early and the defense improves on last year’s performance, Franks is good enough to lead this team to 10 or 11 wins this season.

        That said, what ails Franks cannot be fixed any more than SOS was able to fix the same bad habits in Terry Dean and Doug Johnson, or Don Shula was able to fix them in Don Strock, or Adam Gase was able to fix them in Ryan Tannehill. Franks has a ceiling as a passer and CDM will have to adjust his offensive game plans to compensate for those limitations.

        Hopefully, the Gators will win low scoring games against good defensive teams that can slow down their running game, like they did vs. MSU and LSU last season and run wild vs. bad defensive teams, like they did vs. USCe and FSU. They won’t win any wide open shootouts with Franks as their QB.

  3. Thanks for the INPUT, Zach, sincerely! Because with all due respect to Pat’s knee, he said ”we’ll be super busy this weekend.” And I say WHERE, at a Gator Baseball series? The AP did all the Men’s Gator Basketball stories (Luke Meredith, Teresa M. Walker, etc…). So I appreciate real Gatorsports.com writers doing stories, I truly do! I can only surmise that this will be the case for Men’s Basketball at the Univ. of Florida post season now? Picking up the AP writers’ stories? Sad! So thanks for your input on Gator Football, ’cause I appreciate the ”local feel” that apparently is fading at the G’ville Sun.
    P.S.- Cool pic with your Dad at the Orlando Appollos’ game.

    • gatorgi70x7: Pat was scheduled to cover UF baseball Friday and Sunday, until Game 3 was moved to Saturday. And Robbie has been producing coverage all week of the 50th NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, as he does every year at this time. The drivers say they miss your support, gatorgi70x7. Our guys have more duties than just UF sports. Thanks for reading, g.

      • I won’t ”get into the weeds,” and I sincerely do appreciate all the coverage, Arnold. But Kevin Brockway, the former Men’s Gator Basketball beat writer, was NOT replaced by the Gainesville Sun. Furthermore, the G’ville Sun has been doing Gatornationals, U.F. Men’s Basketball, Baseball, and Softball, and U.F. Spring Football practice, for quite literally decades (I would know, as I grew up here).
        So ‘IF’ this ”present lack of sports writers” is due to lack of funds because of the advent of internet stories and platforms, then I get it, I do! But I was formerly acclimated to the G’ville Sun handling this weekend (U.F. baseball, softball, Gatornationals, and Spring football practice) quite well, in the past, so…
        But thanks for the coverage you all do give us.

        • You got it, g. Kevin was moved to news to fill a need there and the UF basketball beat was eliminated last August. Kevin’s last week in Gainesville starts Monday, as he’s moving on to cover college hoops in Indiana. Over the years, we’ve been downsized from full-time crew of 13 to four (Larry Savage covers high school sports). Thanks for your interest in the Gainesville Sun through the years.

          • Dang Arnold… 13 full time staff to 4? Dang. “Progress” comes with a cost. I’m sorry to hear that. I didn’t realize it was that extreme. Well, the four of you left are doing a bang up job!!!

          • Arnold F. – thank you for taking the time to explain to us why things are the way they are. That makes all the difference in the world to your readers. I know the internet has caused a lot of downsizing in the news industry and especially with newspapers. We do appreciate anything and everything we can get from you all to keep us abreast of our beloved GATORS. Keep up the good work, and I will never criticize any of you ever again on this site. GO GATORS!!!

          • I’m with you Ed, even in reduced staffing for now, this site is by far the best available out there for all things Gator — especially football but with no shortage of other sports too both major and minor. A few months back, due to some unpleasantness not related to the staff, I was considering switching to another site in earnest…..tried them all….the damn pop ups were maddening, the formats were cheesy, and the comments not anywhere near the depth of what we have here. Whats more, no where did I find the level of good will and comradery among posters as found here. Just wish ol’ Leland was still posting is all — sure do miss his humor and good natured wit.

  4. I was hoping for a more brilliant performance by Pierce, but I guess (a) it’s a credit to our defense and, (b) it’s still early on. Then again, as somebody else alluded to, later on we’ll be up against defenses as good as our own.