With the spring game behind us, we now have to wait five long months before the start of the season.
But before we start counting down to September, let’s take a moment to look at what we learned from Friday’s Orange & Blue Debut. The score doesn’t really matter, but in case you’re wondering, Blue dominated Orange 44-6.
Here’s what we learned from the Gators’ spring game:
1. Luke Del Rio is best QB on roster: In case you’re still wondering who the best quarterback on Florida’s roster is, just look at the box score from the spring game. Redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio is the favorite to the win the starting job and it’s not even close. Del Rio, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, completed 10-of-11 passes for 176 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Redshirt senior graduate transfer Austin Appleby, who is Del Rio’s biggest competition for the job, completed 8-of-11 passes for 80 yards and no touchdowns or picks. As you can see, Appleby was solid, but Del Rio was great. Del Rio looking comfortable in the system and threw accurate pass after accurate pass. It’s important to note that Del Rio only played against the second team-defense, while Appleby split time against the first-team defense and second-team defense. Still, Del Rio enters the summer as the heavy favorite to be the Gators’ starting quarterback this upcoming season.
2. Eddy Pineiro will fix kicking issues: With high expectations to live up to, new Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro tried his best to live up to the hype surrounding his leg. Pineiro wasn’t perfect, but he showed he was worth the attention he received during the recruiting process despite never attempting a field goal in an actual game. The Miami native made 3-of-5 field goals and showed off his big leg. The three field goals Pineiro made came from 52 yards, 46 yards and 56 yards away. The longest field goal Florida made last season came from 43 yards away, so that’s a big upgrade already. The two field goals Pineiro missed came from 53 yards and 52 yards away, so they weren’t chip shots. Another positive, Pineiro made each of the five extra points he attempted. Florida missed five extra points last season. The spring game was Pineiro’s first real test and he passed.
3. Duke Dawson & Kylan Johnson — names to know: Cornerback Jalen Tabor and linebacker Jarrad Davis are the names that get most of the attention on Florida’s defense. But two under-the-radar defensive players demanded attention in the spring game — defensive back Duke Dawson and linebacker Kylan Johnson. Dawson is expected to be the Gators’ starting nickelback in place of the departed Brian Poole and showed why. Dawson, a junior, picked off two passes in the spring game and proved he belongs as a starter in Florida’s talented secondary. Meanwhile, Johnson is expected to provide depth at linebacker behind Alex Anzalone and Davis and didn’t disappoint. The safety-turned-linebacker stood out in the spring game with a game-high eight tackles to go along with one interception. Johnson — a 6-foot-1, 228-pound redshirt freshman — probably will work on adding weight this summer as he transitions to his new position, but his athleticism and speed make him a weapon. Duke Dawson and Kylan Johnson are names to keep an eye on.
4. QB Feleipe Franks is on track to redshirt: This might be a surprise to some, but it appears that Feleipe Franks is the freshman quarterback who has the best chance at getting a redshirt this year. Of the two quarterbacks Florida signed in 2016, Franks is the higher-rated prospect as a four-star recruit. But three-star quarterback Kyle Trask is the one who looks better equipped to play at the college level right now. Franks had a nightmarish start to the spring game with three interceptions in his first five pass attempts. Franks improved as the night went on, though, showing off his arm strength with a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end C’yontai Lewis on the final play of the spring game. Trask was consistent, completing 4-of-7 passes for 63 yards and even showed off some surprising mobility. If the other quarterbacks can stay healthy, Franks could get a redshirt year to work on his body and improve his game. The fact that Florida has the luxury of doing that with a four-star quarterback is a good sign.
5. Successful spring: A successful spring is an injury-free spring. The Gators stayed fairly healthy this spring and avoided any major injuries. There were the usual day-to-day injuries that limited contributors like running back Jordan Scarlett (leg), cornerback Jalen Tabor (leg) and center Cameron Dillard (broken nose) for parts of spring practice, but they were able to eventually return and play in the Orange & Blue Debut. The Gators now enter the summer with a healthy squad and no major unexpected setbacks. Can’t ask for much more than that.