Florida Gators should push the ball down the field with new quarterbacks

When asked about some of the changes along the offensive line and if he had made definitive decisions as to who will start Jim McElwain quipped, “Do I have to name the starting deal for Dallas right now?”

Florida won’t play a real game for another six months, so McElwain doesn’t have to name a starter at any position but that won’t stop people from taking a close watch at one position in particular — quarterback.

It was Feleipe Franks who took the first team snaps during the first spring practice on Tuesday, with Kyle Trask working mainly with the second team during the portions of practice that are open to the media. Early enrollee Kadarius Toney will also work with the quarterbacks this spring. Toney is an athlete but with Luke Del Rio sidelined all spring with a shoulder injury he’ll get a chance to play quarterback.

“All three quarterbacks took a bunch of reps,” said McElwain. “(They) threw it to our guys most of the time, occasionally threw it to the other guys.”

Franks first pass of the spring was behind and high to Jordan Scarlett for an incompletion. He benefitted from all 6-4 of C’yontai Lewis’ frame for a completion on a high pass on the second play before hitting Antonio Callaway in stride on a slant. Franks showed touch on a pass to Tyrie Cleveland in the back of the end zone to close out the fastball period.

The first thing you’ll notice about Franks and Trask, after their sheer size and stature, is their arm strength. Both quarterbacks can sling the ball all over the field. There hasn’t been a throw that either can’t make and they know that fact to be true. It gives both of them confidence, something the Gators have lacked at that position.

“Those guys aren’t afraid to throw the ball down the field, no doubt about it,” said McElwain. “We’ve got a couple guys that can chase it down. That’s’ fun to see.”

Physical talent aside the two redshirt freshmen have been in this offensive system for a full year. Both enrolled early and are now going through their second spring camp. The biggest thing McElwain is looking for from his eventual starting quarterback isn’t who can throw the best fastball on a slant or who can throw the ball out of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. He wants a quarterback that makes the 10 players around him better, one that knows the playbook inside and out and instills confidence in his teammates.

“They’re all growing,” sophomore receiver Josh Hammond said. “They all came in as freshmen, and it’s a lot to learn from high school to college as a quarterback. They’re all growing and they’re all going to compete. Game speed. Playbook. All that goes into playing. Just knowing where things are, knowing what everybody’s doing. There’s a lot of different stuff that goes into it, but they’ll be OK.”

Jordan Scarlett also has seen growth from the two signal callers.
“I say from when he first got here, he didn’t want to take care of the ball as much, he didn’t realize college football is a lot faster. But now he’s making more smarter decisions with the football and I like it,” Scarlett said of Franks.

Then asked about Trask he offered this, “He’s a very patient thrower and he’s got a good arm. I just think that he needs to bring on a more leadership role and get more vocal like Feleipe and then he’ll be good.”

The Gators’ will work out all three quarterbacks this spring. That battle will continue on into the summer and fall. It’s good to see that the players are progressing after a full season in the program and even better for fans to hear the teammates expressing this level of trust in two untested quarterbacks.

“I trust them. I’m going to give my all for them. I’ll sell out for them because I know they know what they’re doing,” starting left tackle Martez Ivey said. “They know their reads. They know their hots and I know they’re going get the ball there.”

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC