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5 burning Florida college football questions after spring practice

The Gators looked rough in their exhibition. FSU did not. And rosters are fluid at USF and Miami.
 
The Florida Gators' offense didn't exactly impress in Billy Napier's second spring football game.
The Florida Gators' offense didn't exactly impress in Billy Napier's second spring football game. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published April 18, 2023

For all the breakout players and new coaches on display across Florida in last week’s spring games, the exhibitions mostly reinforced our beliefs about the state heading into 2023.

The Gators don’t look ready for a big jump in Billy Napier’s second season. USF faces a daunting rebuild under Alex Golesh. The College Football Playoff expectations at Florida State are justified.

There are, however, some unknowns. Here are our five biggest unanswered questions at the end of spring practices:

How can Florida revive its offense?

The Florida Gators' offense was unimpressive in last week's spring football game.
The Florida Gators' offense was unimpressive in last week's spring football game. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]

Florida’s defense was expected to be basic last Thursday to preserve some secrets under new coordinator Austin Armstrong. It still dominated, which is a problem for the offense.

Neither Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz nor Las Vegas Bowl starter Jack Miller impressed at quarterback. Worse, an offensive line that was strong last year struggled after losing four starters (two to the NFL, two to the transfer portal). Injuries undoubtedly played a factor, but Florida’s blueprint relies on a solid line blocking for great running backs — and the line did not look solid.

Napier said the Gators will add a quarterback before the season. Unless the spring game was an aberration, Florida will need reinforcements elsewhere on the offense if it plans to challenge for eight or nine wins.

How does FSU handle the championship pressure?

Coach Mike Norvell said his Seminoles are built on having an edge in their work ethic and toughness.

“When people don’t think you’re worth a crap, it’s not hard to have an edge,” Norvell said. “When people start telling you that they think you’re pretty good, you’ve got to maintain that focus and that drive of self-improvement.”

The ‘Noles should be better than pretty good in Norvell’s fourth season. Most sportsbooks have them as the favorite to win the ACC, and it’s reasonable to think they should be in the playoff mix in November — if they withstand an offseason under the weight of new expectations.

What can USF do in the transfer portal?

USF football added Lloyd Summerall in the transfer portal from the Florida Gators. The Bulls will be targeting more additions, too.
USF football added Lloyd Summerall in the transfer portal from the Florida Gators. The Bulls will be targeting more additions, too. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Golesh said the Bulls will be “very” active in the transfer portal this spring. He didn’t specify the position groups he is targeting, but it is fair to assume receivers and linemen are top priorities.

The two-way street has already opened. Defensive lineman Eddie Kelly — a class of 2022 signee who was also courted by the Gators and FSU — entered the portal Monday and quickly picked up a handful of offers.

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The Bulls’ roster will be fluid over the next two weeks as Golesh’s staff looks to add playmakers across the field. Whether USF is successful will shape the timetable for the rebuilding job ahead.

And what will Miami do in the transfer portal?

The Hurricanes have shown signs of rebounding from last season’s 5-7 failure. Tyler Van Dyke looked more like his 2021 version (when he was earning buzz as a future pro) than his 2022 self (10 touchdowns, five interceptions). Most encouragingly, several newcomers flashed, including four-star freshman receiver Nathaniel Joseph, top-100 edge rusher Rueben Bain and Washington State transfer Francisco Mauigoa.

Second-year coach Mario Cristobal has said repeatedly that Miami wants to be busy in the spring portal period. Will there be enough notable additions available for The U to get closer to the top of the ACC?

Can UCF’s tweaked offense thrive in the Big 12?

UCF's offense looks different, in part because of the addition of Demarkcus Bowman.
UCF's offense looks different, in part because of the addition of Demarkcus Bowman. [ WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Orlando Sentinel ]

Knights coach Gus Malzahn has done something he vowed he wouldn’t do again: give up play-calling duties. That role belongs to new offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw, whose unit played at a quicker tempo in the spring game.

The decision allows Malzahn to spend more time on big-picture things like roster management, but it also invites questions, especially as UCF prepares to move into a power conference. The Big 12 isn’t the shootout league it used to be; it plays defense now. How will the Knights adjust to that move — and how does Malzahn handle any growing pains from his offense?

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