GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s offense Friday should be taken with a grain of salt and a good dose of vanilla.
The Gators didn’t look an offensive juggernaut in the Orange & Blue Debut, though they only showed basic formations against their second-team defense.
That’s all it took to rack up 31 unanswered points and 336 yards, with Feleipe Franks accounting for 119 of the 186 passing yards by the starting offense as he assumed control of the starting job.
That’s the biggest takeaway from the spring game. Florida has decided on a quarterback, but it’s hard to predict how improved the offense will actually be based on Friday’s showing.
UF coach Jim McElwain, who carefully crafts his comments and tends to refrain from making bold statements, seems rather confident that strides have been made offensively.
“We’re better. We’re continuing to get there,” McElwain said. “Here’s the good thing, we’re back now to where we’ve got the roster balance piece there. We’re better up front, there’s no doubt about it.
“I’m excited about our offensive line. I think our playmakers … I like our ability to stretch the field and create some explosives with those guys, so it should be fun.”
Fun is not a word you typically hear associated with Florida’s offense, but SEC Country senior football analysts Ollie Connolly recently wrote “the Gators have one of the most fun and creative offenses in the SEC.”
He noted that it hasn’t seemed that way the past two years because the stats stink, but called the offense “an expansive system begging for the right signal-caller.”
McElwain and offensive coordinator have deemed Franks as that guy, but how much of a difference can he make in 2017? Quarterback is considered the most important position in football because of the impact it can have on the team — good or bad.
Overall, Florida’s QB play over the the past seven years has been, let’s say, not fun. Franks is now tasked with changing that this season.
He showed some promise Friday in a small sample size, but was off target on 6 of his 14 pass attempts. Still, his confidence level and command of the offense was evident.
“Very comfrotable … didn’t look antsy,” McElwain said of Franks’ poise. “Would like us to be a little more accurate with the ball. Missed some throws that we’re gonna have to hit, but we’ve just gotta keep working on that.
“We kept it pretty vanilla. No sense in showing all we’re gonna do when we open up in that first ball game. But for the most part, we executed and it was a lot of fun.”
Execution has been one of the biggest issues for Florida quarterbacks under McElwain. We’ve seen wide-open receivers get balls thrown their way late — or not at all — as signal-callers struggle processing McEwain’s “expansive system.”
Franks appeared lost in last year’s spring game and it was not a fun experience. He didn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look Friday and enjoyed himself on the field.
“We play the game to have fun. I think it’s a huge part,” Franks said. “If you’re not going out there and having fun, there might not be a reason that you’re playing.
“I think compared with last year personally, I know what I’m doing now, I’m more comfortable. … I’m going out there and playing football, something I’ve been doing my whole life. It’s a big key in confidence and helping the team out.”