Florida fans have gotten their first glimpse of the 2017 Gators. On a night when a pair of young quarterbacks stepped into the spotlight, the latest version of Florida’s football team took their final reps of spring practice before an estimated crowd of more than 48,000 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Friday night.
That crowd was anxious to see which quarterback would shine, and curious to see how many players would stake their claim to being difference-makers heading into the 2017 season.
Officially, the Orange team beat the Blue by a score of 31-0, whatever that means. The score is basically meaningless in a spring game, just electronic digits on a scoreboard that might as well have been turned off. Ultimately, what mattered was performance. Who could step onto this stage and set themselves apart?
So who shined Friday night?
Here are 5:
Feleipe Franks, quarterback
As recently as this week, it began to circulate that Franks, a redshirt freshman from Wakulla, had begun to separate himself as the guy at quarterback in practice. Those rumors turned into reality in the Swamp on this night. Given the honor of receiving the first team reps by his coaching staff, Franks was surrounded by superior talent compared to counterpart Kyle Trask. But even aside from the built-in advantage of playing alongside Florida’s first teamers, Franks looked the part. For the most part, he was decisive and his passes crisp, arriving at their intended destination with authority. His most captivating play of the night came early, when he connected with wide receiver Josh Hammond on a 46-yard go route. The pass covered 52 yards in the air and was thrown with what appeared to be minimal effort. When it arrived, it fell into Hammond’s arms with pinpoint accuracy. It was a beautiful throw-and-catch, and the best evidence of Franks’ considerable talent. He finished the night by completing 8 of his 14 passes for 119 yards and a score. More importantly, he appeared to create further distance between himself and the rest of Florida’s quarterbacks.
Jordan Scarlett, running back
The numbers were not eye-popping. Scarlett finished with 39 yards on 9 carries. But the visual was more than enough. Scarlett looked every bit the No. 1 running back he has been built up to be, and when he was in the game, Florida’s offense hummed. He scored the game’s first touchdown on a 1-yard burst, but it was his 8-yard bruiser of a run that set up the score and set the tone for the night.
Brandon Powell and Antonio Callaway, wide receivers
It’s hard to say who might be Franks’ favorite target right now, as these two fought to a statistical draw. Callaway caught three passes for 51 yards and a touchdown while Powell had four receptions for 50 yards. The duo combined for 101 receiving yards and were equally effective drawing across the field on crossing routes, giving Franks a dependable target on many of his dropbacks.
Kadarius Toney, quarterback
While his position is officially quarterback, he might as well be referred to as the wow factor. That’s what Toney brought to the table when he was inserted into the lineup late in Friday night’s scrimmage. The coaches, playing to Toney’s strength, allowed the defense to tackle the quarterback when Toney was in the game – as opposed to automatic whistles when Trask and Franks were behind center. But the relaxing of the rules only gave the defense the right to tackle Toney, not the ability. The electrifying freshman led the Gators with 5 carries for 74 yards, and he added a 9-yard touchdown pass. It’s hard to discern where Toney fits into Florida’s plans for 2017, but after Friday night, it’s clear that he belongs somewhere on the field.