Five things I’m looking for during spring football

The Florida Gators’ football program starts spring ball on Thursday, March 7th with the annual Orange and Blue game scheduled for Saturday, April 13th at 1:00 PM.

Credentialed media members are invited to cover a select period of each practice, which typically last about 15 minutes.

Here’s five things I’m looking for throughout spring football.

Assistant coaches’ roles defined 

Perhaps the two biggest offseason hires / promotions left Gator Nation with more questions than answers.

Linebacker coaching hire Ron Roberts was given the title Executive Head Coach and Co-Defensive Coordinator / linebacker coach and the informal title of “Head Coach of the defense” by Billy Napier. Napier did clarify that defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong will be calling plays, but that Roberts will oversee the unit and coach the coaches.

“Head coach for the defense,” Napier said on Roberts’ role with the Gators. “Basically a guy who oversees that side of the ball to some degree.”

“Austin [Armstrong] is obviously the coordinator, calls the plays, runs the unit meetings, but we are getting a guy who can coach the coaches, who can improve the installation of the game plan, that really can get the best of that side of the ball,” Napier said on Roberts.

Will Roberts spend the majority of his time with the linebackers? Will he bounce around position groups? Will most of the work that justifies being the ‘head coach of the defense’ be done behind closed doors?

The biggest mystery of the offseason remains unanswered; will Billy Napier be calling plays in 2024? Florida plans on promoting tight ends coach Russ Callaway to co-offensive coordinator, who has experience with play calling throughout his coaching career. However, it remains unclear whether the promotion will result in the play calling duties or simply more input in the offensive scheme / gameplan. Rob Sale is currently the offensive coordinator, but it is safe to assume he will not be calling plays for the Gators next season.

While the answers to these questions may not be answered in a 15-minute practice segment, Napier, assistant coaches, and players will meet with the media throughout spring ball and will hopefully provide more clarity on the assistant coaching roles.

QB DJ Lagway

All eyes will be on five-star QB DJ Lagway, who is set to part take in his first spring season with the Gators. Florida’s staff told Lagway that he would have a role in year one, implementing ‘packages’ for him throughout the 2024 season. It’s also very likely that Lagway starts the season as the backup quarterback, meaning he has to reach a certain level of comfortability with the Gators’ offense fairly quickly. Which WR’s is he establishing a good on field relationship with? Does he have an early grasp on the playbook?

Will the young WR’s step up?

After the offseason losses of Ricky Pearsall (NFL) and Caleb Douglas (transfer), the Gators will need some of their younger WR’s to step up if they want to form a competitive WR room.

One would expect Eugene Wilson will remain a top target for the Gators’ offense after hauling in 61 catches for 538 yards and six touchdowns in his freshman campaign. Wisconsin transfer Chimere Dike will play a large role for the Gators as well and should be a steady piece to the receiver rotation.

Sophomore WR Andy Jean turned heads last spring and fall camp, but it didn’t result in very much playing time for the Miami native. Did he improve as a blocker? What does he need to do to see the field in year two?

The same goes for Aidan Mizell. Did he put on weight during the offseason? Is his route running more defined?

Florida has a few veteran receivers in Ja’Quavion Fraziars, Marcus Burke, and Kahleil Jackson that are all still searching for their breakout seasons. Will either of these three take a notable jump and take some pressure off Florida’s young receiver group?

The Gators also welcomed two freshman receivers in Tank Hawkins and TJ Abrams, who add significant speed to the WR unit.

Coming off the edge

After the loss of Princely Umanmielen to the transfer portal, the Gators will be looking for guys to step up and be a dominant force off the edge. TJ Searcy flashed as a freshman and is expected to take on a significant role in year two.

Justus Boone is recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered in August of 2023. Where is he at in his recovery process? Will be able to see the field in a limited fashion this spring?

DL Tyreak Sapp moved outside following Boone’s injury last season. Will he remain in that role once again or will the staff move him back inside?

Kelby Collins is another name to keep a close eye on after playing a significant role in year one with the program.

It’s been a while since the Gators have had a dominant force off the edge. The Gators have recruited the talent, it’s now up to the coaching staff to get the players where they need to be.

Offensive line

Florida’s offensive line struggled in 2023 and remains one of the bigger question marks heading into spring ball. The Gators must field a competitive offensive line if they want to fair well against a daunting 2024 schedule.

Florida added two transfer tackles in Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson and Devon Manuel, who both played well at their previous schools.

Damieon George and Kamryn Waites are the ‘wildcards’ in the unit as both have experience at guard and tackle throughout their career. Will both make a full time move to guard considering the Gators added tackle depth in the transfer portal?

Returning freshman Knijeah Harris is expected to take one of the starting guard spots, but who will the other one go to?

Did any of the returning freshman in Bryce Lovett, Caden Jones, and Rod Kearney make a notable jump this offseason?

Gator Country will be live at every practice for the Gators this spring, so stay tuned for daily updates and stories on Florida spring football.










Nick Marcinko
Nick is a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in Telecommunications. He is passionate about all sports but specifically baseball and football. Nick interned at Inside the Gators and worked part time with Knights247 before joining the Gator Country family. Nick enjoys spending his free time golfing and at the beach.