HOOVER, Ala. — The consensus among those covering SEC Media Days this week is that the Florida Gators are going to have more and better skill players on offense than they’ve had in a decade.
The big question now is how effective are all these playmakers going to be operating behind a young and inexperienced offensive line that certainly will see some true freshmen contributing?
That, of course, is to be determined over the course of the season.
As for right now, the big guys have been putting in the work this summer, quarterback Feleipe Franks said.
He said it’s a young group with a lot of potential.
“They do have a lot of promise,” Franks said. “They’ve worked their tails off all summer. We have guys that have experience as well on the offensive line, guys that are continually working to get better on their footwork, keeping their good weight.
“Coach (John) Hevesy does a great job with all that. And guys that are just hungry. We have spots that are open and guys are just hungry to keep on building that depth at that position. That’s one of the hardest working position groups that we have on our team.”
The line has some veterans to build around, guys like Brent Heggie and Nick Buchanan. But the older guys are going to be surrounded by youth and inexperience — true freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores.
Senior running back Lamical Perine seems pretty comfortable knowing he’ll be running behind this green group.
“They have been coming out and playing great, getting chemistry together
on our off times,” Perine said. “I feel like that will help them out throughout the season.
“I understand (how young they are). You just have to be ready for your opportunity because they are going to be thrown out there. That’s just how the game goes. I got thrown out there as a freshman.
“You’ve got to be ready for that opportunity, and they’re working hard for that.”
Franks has gone through some difficult times in his three years in Gainesville, but he’s hung in there and now has a chance to have a major breakout season in his second season under Dan Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson.
“He has come a long way,” Mullen said. “He continues to come a long way. Continues to grow, continues to develop and continues to take those steps.
“In today’s world, you look at the development, the 25 ranked quarterbacks in all the recruiting sites, in his recruiting class. Seventeen of them have transferred already. He’s stuck it out, and he’s continued to work and stay through different adversities, to continue to grow, to continue to develop, and he’s starting to reap all of the rewards of that now with how he finished last year.”
Chasing that degree
Defensive end Jabari Zuniga hopes to improve his NFL draft status by returning for his senior season. But that’s not the main reason he’s still here, Mullen said.
“His mom keeps me up every day making sure he’s on track to graduate,” Mullen said. “That’s the most important part of his decision to come back his senior year, even more so than his growth development in a football career — to make sure he gets his degree.”
Perine isn’t the only Alabama kid on the Florida roster who will be looking forward to the Auburn game on Oct. 5 in The Swamp.
True freshman linebacker Mohamoud Diabate is from Auburn.
Mullen said Diabate, an early enrollee who went through spring practice, is off to a positive start in his UF career.
Who knows, he may be in the playing rotation by the time the Tigers arrive in Gainesville for UF’s sixth game of the season.
“I think he’s done a great job. He’s such a high-end character young man and he’s a great academic student. I know the draws of coming to the University of Florida for him and his family, not just football player, but academic student as well, were huge.
“He’s got a great attitude and a great work ethic,” Mullen said. “He had a pretty solid spring for us. Obviously, it’s making that adjustment and wanting to see how that adjustment translates onto the field as young players.
“He’s still a young guy, but by graduating early, it gives you that opportunity to possibly get on the field and play right away as a freshman.”