Florida’s Orange And Blue Debut went about how you’d expect a spring game that pitted the starters against the backups to go; the starters won big.
But that really wasn’t what people were looking for on Friday night. Rather, fans were more after signs of promise for a team that ended the 2015 season without any. Since I used “promise” in a way that comes without guarantees, the team more than delivered on a number of accounts. So here are the five biggest things I took away:
5) The best and worst of Mark Thompson
Perhaps the Gators’ biggest recruit in this year’s class was JUCO running back Mark Thompson. Coaches have raved about his rare blend of power and speed, and he displayed both on a 26 yard touchdown run. Thompson also showed great patience in waiting for a hole to open before exploding through it. But coaches have also expressed concern for his penchant for putting the ball on the ground, which he did near the goal line. That can’t happen in the fall. Nonetheless, he’s a dazzling prospect, and the sky’s the limit for him if he cuts down on the fumbles.
4) Feleipe Franks has a lot of work to do
Freshman QB Feleipe Franks really needed to finish the spring game on a positive note, and to his credit, he did with a touchdown to C’yontai Lewis. But up until the final drive, he had a disastrous night, throwing three interceptions (one of which was taken back for a touchdown) in his first four passes. The worst one was when he threw the ball way behind his receiver, making it an easy catch for defensive back Duke Dawson. There are also mechanical issues that need fixing, and fast. I still believe his ceiling is extremely high, but he may be even farther away from reaching it than I thought.
3) CJ Worton as a playmaker?
Much of the talk surrounding Florida’s passing game revolves around the QB and the freshman wide receiver corps. But how about CJ Worton, who’s been almost an afterthought in the Gators’ wide receiver depth chart? Worton’s the one who hauled in a Hail Mary in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama, and he opened the spring game with a spectacular 46 yard catch and run that featured him rolling over a defender, a la Michael Dyer at Auburn. He also proved to be Johnny On The Spot by recovering Thompson’s aforementioned fumble and scoring with it. Don’t forget about this kid over the next few months.
2) Eddy Pineiro is legit
We knew this guy could kick for YouTube videos, but how about in a real game? Well, he answered that question by nailing field goals of 46, 52 and 56 yards. And though he missed two other kicks from 52 and 54… well, when’s the last time a Gator kicker made half of his attempts from 52+ yards? Another way to summarize his night: he shook off an early miss from 52 to make one from a few yards farther back, displaying the kind of confidence that may be even more important for a kicker to have than leg power. To boot, (pun intended) he did a great job on kickoffs and extra points.
1) Luke Del Rio will be the starting QB
At this point, it feels like Luke Del Rio has to do something abhorrent and/or highly illegal off the field to not be the Gators’ starting quarterback. Which his quiet, humble personality insinuates that he won’t do. So, pencil him in as the starter. He doesn’t have the biggest arm, but it sure is accurate. It also comes attached to a very intelligent human being with a high football IQ, and that was on display last Friday night to the tune of a 10-11, 176 yard evening. Austin Appleby and Kyle Trask made some strides this spring, too, but it just feels like they’re battling for the backup job.