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5 takeaways from Florida Gators' spring football game

UF running back Mark Thompson looks for an opening as defensive back Chris Williamson pursues during the spring game.
UF running back Mark Thompson looks for an opening as defensive back Chris Williamson pursues during the spring game.
Published Apr. 9, 2016

GAINESVILLE — Reading anything into spring games is a risk, especially ones such as Friday night's Orange and Blue Debut when Florida stacked all of its starters on one team for a glorified scrimmage.

With that caveat aside, the Gators' nationally televised spring game — in front of an estimated crowd of 46,000 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — showed some glimpses into what UF could look like in the fall. Here are five takeaways:

1 Luke Del Rio remains the favorite to win the starting quarterback job. The walk-on redshirt sophomore entered the spring with an edge because of his experience in coach Jim McElwain's system, and McElwain said he leaves spring with the lead, too. Del Rio finished 10-of-11, with his only incompletion a throwaway. He passed for 176 yards against the second-team defense and posted a 285.3 passer rating. UF scored on all four of his drives, including his touchdown passes to TE DeAndre Goolsby and WR Dre Massey. "It's a good start," Del Rio said. UF's other leading quarterback contender, Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby, was sacked three times and finished 8-of-11 for 79 yards.

2 QB Feleipe Franks looked like an early enrollee playing against a loaded defense. The four-star freshman threw three interceptions in his first three drives. Franks was sacked by sophomore DL Keivonnis Davis on his first play, then intercepted by DB Duke Dawson on his third to end the half. Dawson also returned a Franks interception for a touchdown. Franks is considered a raw talent but a potential quarterback of the future. His performance suggests the future is still a year or two away.

3 The Gators found their kicker. One of their biggest recruiting coups was poaching Eddy Pineiro away from Alabama, and the redshirt sophomore from Miami showed why the Gators are excited about his potential. He hit all of his extra points, and his first field goal was a successful 52-yarder that drew a roar from the crowd and showed his ability to fill an immediate need. UF ranked second-to-last nationally in field goal percentage (41.2 percent) and didn't make a field goal longer than 43 yards last season; Pineiro had three Friday, including a 56-yarder in the fourth quarter. UF hasn't made a 56-yard field goal in a game since Caleb Sturgis hit one in 2009. "It felt good," Pineiro said. "Everything I dreamed of."

4 RB Mark Thompson is more than a bruising back. The massive 6-foot-2, 242-pound Thompson didn't gain much up the middle and fumbled in the second half on a charge inside the 10. He did, however, flash some versatility. Thompson caught back-to-back passes from Del Rio. Two plays later, he rushed up the middle, patiently waited for a hole and bounced outside for a 26-yard touchdown run.

5 The defense remains UF's strength. Standout CB Jalen Tabor had a quiet night (aside from a pass interference penalty), but the Gators' top defense still had three interceptions. Hillsborough High alumnus Jordan Sherit batted down a pass and forced a fumble, while Davis and touted redshirt freshman DL Jabari Zuniga each had a sack.

Contact Matt Baker at Follow @MBakerTBTimes.


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