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Five thoughts from Florida Gators’ Orange and Blue spring game

Spoiler: Feleipe Franks still looks like the Gators’ starting quarterback.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was ready for the Florida Gators' spring game. This was the scene, an hour and a half before kickoff. (MATT BAKER | Times)
Published Apr. 13
Updated Apr. 13

GAINESVILLE — It’s hard to glean too much from Florida’s spring game, considering two of its biggest moments came from players who haven’t suited up in years: Former All-America defensive back Lito Sheppard scored on an interception, and SEC Network analyst Chris Doering got a touchdown on a pass from walk-on quarterback Nick Sproles.

But here are five meaningful takeaways from Orange’s 60-35 victory over Blue in the highest scoring spring game in Gators history:

1. Feleipe Franks is the top quarterback.

In theory, this has been in doubt, because coaches have insisted that his battle with Kyle Trask and Emory Jones remains open. But it’s hard to make a case for anyone but Franks, the incumbent starter. At one point Saturday, Franks had a passer rating of over 365. Take away his (intentional) interception to Sheppard, and he finished 13-of-17 for 327 yards, four touchdown passes and a touchdown run. Coach Dan Mullen praised Franks’ performance in front of an announced crowd of 39,476, but he said it’s important to keep developing all of his passers. Regardless, it’s hard to see anyone on the roster unseating Franks before the Aug. 24 opener against Miami in Orlando.

2. John Huggins is a name to know.

The sophomore STAR nickelback has been one of the breakout stars of the spring, and he showed it Saturday by intercepting Trask for an 80-yard touchdown, breaking up another deep pass and recording a tackle for a loss.

“It’s big,” Huggins said. “It’s big for me, just letting the coaches know I can play, that I can solidify myself here at the University of Florida.”

3. The receiving corps looks loaded.

Five different receivers (plus Doering) caught at least one touchdown. Trevon Grimes set a UF spring game record with 195 receiving yards to go with his two touchdowns. Freddie Swain went over 100 receiving yards, and electric talent Kadarius Toney almost did, too. That doesn’t even include one of the spring’s most impressive players, receiver Kyle Pitts (four catches, 56 yards).

“You don’t always want to design where you’re always trying to get the ball to a guy,” Mullen said. “We want to be able to just run the offense and take what the defense gives us. Having the depth at the receiver position, and the talent, allows you to do that.”

4. This team is not a finished product.

UF’s glaring weakness remains an offensive line that loses four starters (including tackle Jawaan Taylor, a sure-fire first-round pick and potential Bucs target). The line gave up seven sacks Saturday and hasn’t looked great this spring. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Mullen said the Gators “are not complete at that position yet at all for this season.”

Translation: UF will spend its offseason recruiting potential graduate transfer offensive linemen.

5. Mullen likes to put on a show.

He has talked about turning game days into events that feel like a concert or state fair, plus a sporting event. Saturday’s exhibition wasn’t quite like that, but it was intended to be fun, starting with the first play of the game (a reverse pass from Toney to Franks) and including the cameos by Sheppard and Doering. Touchdown celebrations ranged from duck, duck, goose to a Lambeau Leap (The Swamp Hop?) into the stands. The idea of making the game fun is also why I’m not reading much into a secondary that got torched repeatedly. One of Mullen’s jobs was to make Florida football fun again, and an entertaining spring game is one way to accomplish it.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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