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Florida Football

Spring Preview Media Roundtable

March 12, 2019

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Spring football is nearly upon us. 

As we prepare for the Gators to return to the practice field, Inside the Gators Kassidy Hill is joined by Jacquie Franciulli of Gators Territory and Nick de la Torre of Gator Country to preview spring ball and what we can expect from the team this offseason.

Which position group can best benefit from this spring (i.e. building depth, getting young guys reps, etc.)?

Franciulli: The offensive line will be the group to benefit most this spring. The Gators lost four starters from last year’s line, so the next few weeks will give the coaches an opportunity to see how well some of the younger guys have developed. It also helps that the Gators have a few offensive linemen eary enrollees. 

Hill: There are a lot of question marks across most of the defensive units while the offense returns most of its production...but the offensive line has the most to gain from this spring. This is always a unit that works best with consistently and experience but it’s about to have to replace four starters. To top it off, the second string from a year ago where one of the areas where coaches had the most concern. The unit got the biggest influx from early enrollees though so there will be plenty of bodies to fight for reps. With the competition wide open, the offensive line can take a huge step forward in spring practice as guys fight for a spot. 

De La Torre: To me the biggest group that will benefit from spring might be the offensive line. You’re only returning one true starter (if you don’t include Brett Heggie) so there are a lot of questions for that unit. Not only do you need to find that starting five and build chemistry with them but you need to find the five guys behind them and build depth.

Is there actually a quarterback battle this spring? 

Franciulli: I don’t think so. I think Feleipe Franks would have to have a very poor spring for him to lose his job. You could argue that Kyle Trask and Emory Jones are in a battle for backup. I think Jones will use this spring to demonstrate how much he has developed. I think he could also make a point that he deserves some more packages next year. 

Hill: No there’s not. This debate has only arisen due to the offseason and people’s desire to find something new to talk about. Feleipe Franks is heading into spring for the second year as the incumbent and for the first time as the unquestioned starter. Dan Mullen prefers experience and Franks ended the season on an upward trajectory which means his coach isn’t pulling that spot from him just for giggles to see what the young guys can do. He’ll still have to compete and earn it but if Emory Jones or Jalon Jones or Kyle Trask want that spot, they’ll have to not only far outperform Franks, the upcoming junior will need to falter in some way. And after seeing what he can do with confidence behind him, faltering doesn’t seem likely. 

De La Torre: There is a quarterback battle, just not for the starting job. This is Feleipe Franks’ team now, he earned that last season. For the first time since probably 2013 the Gators are going into an offseason knowing who their starting quarterback will be. The battle will be between Kyle Trask and Emory Jones. Trask has been unable to unseat Franks during their careers, now he needs to fight off Jones or fall to third string.

Which player has the most to prove this spring?

Franciulli: I’m torn between two. I think Tedarrel Slaton is one that I feel needs to show development. Defensive tackle is a position of need for the Gators and they need Slaton to perform. On the other side of the coin, I think Franks is one many fans will still want to see more from. Many either love or hate the quarterback and many of those detractors will be ready to pounce if Emory Jones has a better spring. 

Hill: Originally this was going to be Jeremiah Moon who will have to prove he can capitalize on innate skills to fill Jachai Polite’s role; but now that Moon will be limited in the spring with injury, I’m going to the second guy on the list and that’s T.J. Slaton. He’s the guy teammates call the freakiest athlete on the team but also the guy coaches are consistently frustrated with for effort or the lack thereof. He has all of the tools to be a monster inside the defensive line. All he really has to do is show he’s willing to put in the work. If he can do that this spring, he can head into fall camp with a huge lead to take over the inside position. 

De La Torre: There are so many players with a lot to prove but I’ll go with Kadarius Toney just because I don’t believe we saw his full potential last year. It’s on Toney to earn the coaches trust during practice and show that he can be used in multiple personnel packages to get on the field. We saw more of that towards the end of last season and I want to see him build on that.

Which early enrollee do you expect to make the biggest difference right away? 

Franciulli: I think Chris Steele is going to have a huge impact on that secondary. With Marco Wilson still not fully participating this spring, Steele is going to receive plenty of reps at corner. Steele is also versatile enough that he could even slide into safety due to his size. 

Hill: There are some intriguing early enrollees such as the offensive linemen and cornerback Chris Steele...but I think linebacker Mohamoud Diabate has the chance to come in and make an immediate impact. With Moon limited due to injury, Diabate can take the extra reps at the coveted BUCK position and show coaches what he can do there. He got better as his senior season progressed so he’ll be an exciting one to watch as he acclimates to the college game. 

De La Torre: The early enrollee I expect to make the biggest impact quickest is Chris Steele. He’s going to get the biggest opportunity right away with Marco Wilson still recovering from knee surgery. Trey Dean will be moving in Chauncey Gardner’s role, so that third cornerback spot will be open for the taking and Steele has an opportunity to seize it.

What under the radar story line about this team are you most interested in following this spring?

Franciulli: I don’t know if this is really under the radar but I’m curious to see how the staff approaches spreading the ball between the receivers. Trevon Grimes has a few more receptions towards the end of the season, while this season they also have Jacob Copeland healthy. It’s a nice deep group.

Hill: I’m interested to see who becomes the number two running back behind Lamical Perine. There’s little doubt the senior will be first on the depth chart but with how much Mullen and Greg Knox rotate backs, that number two guy is equally important. It’d be easy to assume it will be Dameon Pierce after a fantastic freshman campaign; but if Malik Davis can finally stay healthy, could this be the year he finally showcases all that potential he flashed as a freshman? We’ll see.

De La Torre:  I don’t know how under the radar it is but I want to see who steps up outside to fill the void left by CeCe Jefferson and Jachai Polite. Who will be the guy that can consistently get pressure on the quarterback?

Spring Preview Media Roundtable

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Good write up, thanks for posting!
---Go Gators!
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Eric-UF said:

Good write up, thanks for posting!
Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!
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