Head coach, Dan Mullen, promised a fun atmosphere for the annual Orange and Blue Debut, and fans were not disappointed. On the very first play from scrimmage, Kadarius Toney connected with Feleipe Franks on a forty yard double pass. The offense didn’t slow down from there.
For much of the afternoon, fans were treated to an air show as the quarterbacks and receivers were mostly unstoppable. In fact, Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask, and Emory Jones combined for 315 yards and four touchdowns in the first quarter alone.
Franks finished the day going 13/18 for 327 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for another touchdown. The lone blemish on the day for the incumbent starter was a scripted pick six, thrown to former Gators great, Lito Sheppard.
Sheppard wasn’t the only former Gator to find the endzone. Fans got to relive one of the famous Mick Hubert calls, “Doering’s got a touchdown! Oh my!”, as Chris Doering donned the orange jersey and found the endzone, late in the game.
As much fun as this game was to watch, it is difficult to really get an accurate gauge of where the team is at. This was by design, as many of Todd Grantham’s exotic coverages and blitz packages were ommitted from the day’s playbook. As a result, we didn’t really get to see how much the offensive line has learned throughout the spring session, and the corners were at a clear disadvantage in handling an extremely talented corps of receivers and tight ends.
What we know, is that Franks development has continued and he will be equipped with a lethal arsenal of receivers. The running backs are extremely talented and might help with the offensive line’s learning curve, in their ability to create space on their own.
What truly remains to be seen is just how much improvement the line has made from the start of spring. They looked okay for the most part, save for a few errors by the tackles. But how much different would it have looked against a Grantham defense that wasn’t handcuffed?
Coach John Hevesy has been pleased, and even a bit surprised by the speed at which the unit has caught on. My prediction is that this will be a serviceable group by the season opener, and that we will see them continue to improve as the season wears on, much like last year’s group.
Along with an exaggerated look at the offensive capabilities, the defensive gameplan also keeps future opponents–and yes, fans, too–guessing at exactly what this year’s defense looks like. I can assure you, it is much more potent than the 60-35 final score indicates.
In the end, this year’s Orange and Blue Debut did exactly what it was intended to do. It provided a fun filled fan experience, and a chance for past, present, and future Gators to let loose while getting a look inside Dan Mullen’s program.
One thing they all seem to agree on? The future is bright, and it’s great to be a Florida Gator.