GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A spring ripe with storylines and a prominent position battle comes to an end this week for the Florida football team in the annual Orange & Blue Debut.
The Gators will conduct their spring game Friday night inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with all eyes on the team’s young quarterbacks, redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask.
Florida coach Jim McElwain said early this week that the position was starting to “sort itself out,” and Franks followed those comments with a strong start to practice Monday and Wednesday afternoon.
While running the first-team offense during the opening “fastball” period, Franks went an efficient 3-for-3 passing with a pair of touchdown connections to tight end C’yontai Lewis on Monday, and then looked perhaps even better on Wednesday with a perfect throw to Antonio Callaway down the seam and an on-the-move toss to Callaway in the back corner of the end zone.
Of course, he still has plenty to prove to earn the full trust of the coaching staff and lock up the starting job, which may not be formally decided upon until August.
Franks was 5-for-11 with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions in the spring game last year, and McElwain has stated he’s eager to see how the young quarterbacks perform in front of a large crowd and television audience Friday night.
Here’s everything to know about the Orange & Blue Debut:
What time is Florida’s spring game?
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday night inside The Swamp.
What TV channel is showing Florida’s spring game?
The game will be televised live by on SEC Network and can be streamed online via WatchESPN.
Who is calling the Florida spring game?
Clay Matvick, Kevin Carter and former Florida wide receiver Chris Doering are on the call.
What to know
1. With veteran quarterback Luke Del Rio sidelined this spring recovering from a pair of shoulder procedures, Franks, Trask and true freshman Kadarius Toney have taken the reps at quarterback. Toney is not really a candidate for the starting job and has clear deficiencies as a passer, but the Gators like his athleticism and speed and have been working in special packages for him at the position.
2. Florida’s defense will look quite a bit different from last season with cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson, safety Marcus Maye, linebackers Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone and defensive linemen Caleb Brantley, Joey Ivie and Bryan Cox Jr. gone. And fans won’t get a true look at the Gators’ rebuilt this week with middle linebacker David Reese out this spring recovering from wrist surgery and an influx of six freshmen defensive backs not set to arrive until the summer.
3. That said, keep an eye on sophomore defensive back Chauncey Gardner Jr. It’s still unclear where he will play in 2017, be it cornerback, safety or nickel. But there’s no doubt he’ll be a key cog for the Gators after closing his freshman season so strong, including Outback Bowl MVP honors.
4. McElwain said Monday he hadn’t yet decided on an exact format for the spring game, so stay tuned for updates. Last year some players, including the quarterbacks, ended up playing for both teams at various points.
5. McElwain did make it clear, though, that the Gators will be running a vanilla playbook while being cognizant that season-opening opponent Michigan will be watching from afar.
6. The second-most discussed storyline regarding the offense this spring has been the offensive line, where the Gators brought in a new assistant coach in Brad Davis and have stated a desire to be more aggressive and physical. That will be something else worth monitoring in the spring game.
7. Here’s one more player to watch. True freshman tight end Kemore Gamble has been drawing rave reviews from the coaching staff as an early enrollee going through his first spring practice. While the Gators have two established veteran tight ends in DeAndre Goolsby and C’yontai Lewis, Gamble is turning heads and McElwain has said he will be “a factor” in 2017.