GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While the spring quarterback spotlight shines on Florida redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, coach Jim McElwain said newcomer Kadarius Toney has turned some heads already.
Toney, who joined the Gators as an early enrollee and is listed as an “athlete” on the roster, has been working at quarterback and could have the coaches getting a little creative with different packages.
“I think there’s going to be some things we’re going to be able to do with him in some package, a lot like we were doing with Dre (Massey) a little bit, only more so that he really has been (at) quarterback,” McElwain said. “He pulled one down and took one very quickly to the end zone from a ways away and caught the eyes of not only us as coaches but the team.”
Massey, a slot receiver by trade, was set to be used in a variety of ways last season before tearing the ACL in his right knee while returning 2016’s season-opening kickoff.
McElwain raved about the overall team speed he sees on the field this spring and the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Toney is part of that. While it remains unclear if he’ll remain at quarterback or move to another position, Toney made an early impression with his raw play-making abilities.
Whether it’s Massey, Toney or whoever, McElwain clearly wants the Gators to have a few more tricks in their bag this fall after feeling the offense was too predictable at times in 2016.
“I think it’s something that gives the defense something else to kind of have to focus on and work on,” he said. “It gives you a change of pace back there. I don’t know, you get bored sometimes too. It’s kind of fun to do.”
McElwain said he’s almost always had that change-of-pace option to mix in at the quarterback spot or perhaps in a wildcat capacity. A few examples:
- Stefan LeFors at Louisville (behind starter Dave Ragone)
- Drew Stanton at Michigan State when he was in a backup role
- Wide receiver Marquis Maze (a former high school quarterback) at Alabama
Toney finished his senior season at Blount High School in Eight Mile, Ala., with 2,894 yards and 32 touchdowns passing while also rushing for 894 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“When you evaluate film and you see a guy like that, when the ball gets in his hands, every time he touches the ball something good happens for his team,” Gators offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. “So when you look at a guy like that, you say, ‘OK, where can he play? Well he can play multiple positions. What does he do with the ball in his hands? Well, he can throw, he can play without the ball in his hands. He’s done that before, so there’s a lot of different elements he provides to you as an offense.”
As for building those new wrinkles into the offense, though, McElwain indicated that would mostly come later in the process. He wants the spring to be about fundamentals and individual improvement.
“I think one of the things is that you find yourself kind of getting in a little bit of a rut, and all of a sudden you can’t do this, you can’t do that because they’re doing this. That kind of thing. Rather than, it doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing, let’s continue to grow and be creative,” he said. “It’s been good with the new (assistant coaches) coming in as well, just new thoughts, new way of looking at things, that kind of stuff. (But we’re) not as concerned in spring with schemes as we are about guys getting individually and fundamentally better. That’s the age-old approach, and yet there’s a lot of new things that we’re doing that’s kind of fun to see.”