With only a few more practices between now and next Friday’s Orange & Blue Game, I offer these spring observations:
- If the season started today, Feleipe Franks would be the starting quarterback. He’s got the size, the arm and the intangibles to be the starter. And he’s started to take on a leadership role, something that’s a must at the position. Kyle Trask has also been impressive with his accurate arm, although he seems somewhat hesitant to lead at times. The competition between the two is close and it’s unlikely that a starter will be named before late August. And don’t forget about former starter Luke Del Rio, who will get back in the mix in August. There was a telling sign a few weeks ago, when Jim McElwain said the coaches “dumbed down” the offense for the first scrimmage to take some of the pressure off of the young quarterbacks. That’s something that doesn’t have to be done when Del Rio is behind center.
- Two early enrollees have already put themselves in a position to play in the fall — offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort and tight end Kemore Gamble. I saw Telfort up close at Pro Day and he looks like a veteran SEC offensive lineman — big, strong, athletic. He’s making a serious push for playing time at tackle. Gamble has been a spring star, showing wide receiver skills and playmaking ability at tight end. The veteran TEs better watch out or he’s going to steal a lot of their playing time.
- Florida’s offensive line should be better. Whether it actually is or not is still to be determined. At this stage, let’s just say the Gators look much better up front — bigger, stronger, with a lot of experienced guys now. The Gators seemed almost passive up front last season — with the exception of the second half of the LSU game — but that probably won’t be the case under new line coach Brad Davis, who has the big nasties competing with energy and passion, and with a chip on their shoulder.
- With the departure of Caleb Brantley, Joey Ivie and Bryan Cox Jr., the Gators were looking for some players, young and old, to step up this spring. And they have. According to the coaches, Jabari Zuniga, Cece Jefferson, Khairi Clark, Taven Bryan, Keivonnis Davis, Jachai Polite and Atonneous Clayton are all having good springs. The defensive line is starting to take on the look of a team strength. McElwain said Zuniga has started to emerge as a potential dominant player and pass rusher.
- According to the coaches, junior wide receiver Antonio Callaway has elevated his game to another level. He’s clearly taking advantage of his first spring at UF by putting in the work on the field and in the film room. With Callaway, Tyrie Cleveland, Dre Massey, Brandon Powell and Josh Hammond, the Gators could be deep and dangerous at wide receiver in 2017.
- Redshirt freshman C.J. McWilliams, who arrived on campus significantly underweight last summer, has had a breakout spring and should see playing time at cornerback. He’s gained more than 25 pounds and is now up to 190.
- Lack of proven depth in the secondary remains a huge concern. The good news is Duke Dawson is looking really comfortable back at his old cornerback spot and Chauncey Gardner is showing lots of upside at corner. And the influx of new talent this summer will give new secondary coach Corey Bell plenty of young and promising prospects to work with in trying to maintain DBU’s high standard.
- Vosean Joseph has a chance to be UF’s next great linebacker — if Kylan Johnson doesn’t beat him to it. Both have had great springs. Johnson, who seemed to be thinking his way on the field at times last year, is now playing fast and with abandon. In other words, he’s playing like Joseph did the last part of last season.
- The coverage and kicking aspect of special teams — Eddy Pineiro and Johnny Townsend — have a chance to be special. The return game, despite a lot of fast and talented options, remains a huge question mark.