Notebook: Florida Gators open spring practice

The Florida Gators opened spring football practice on Tuesday. Dan Mullen’s first season was a resounding success in Gainesville but the head coach has stressed that if the Gators want to be better than they were last year they needed to work harder than they did a year ago.

That started Tuesday.

Here are Gator Country’s observations form the Florida Gators first day of spring practice. We are not including the offensive or defensive line in this report. The team was not in pads and it’s not a fair to access the play of he OL/DL when they’re not in pads.

Quarterbacks

Feleipe Franks is the starter, despite Dan Mullen saying he didn’t want to hand out the “starter” label at any position. Franks looked good in his first practice. He showed patience; stepped up into the pocket during 11-on-11 drills, hit check downs and was accurate throwing.

The biggest note at this position group is with the backup battle. Emory Jones worked with the second team for most of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills throughout the day. Jones looks physically bigger than he did a year ago but still showed the quickness and agility that makes him a dangerous runner.

As far as throwing goes he still reminds of Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh from the movie Bull Durham. Jones has a very good, strong arm but he doesn’t always know where the ball is going when he throws it. Jones threw a really bad pass during 11-on-11 that Jeawon Taylor was able to step in front of and intercept. He’s young and I would expect him to get more playing time but this is Franks’ team in 2019.

Jalon Jones looked fine, definitely like a freshman still. He’ll almost assuredly redshirt this season given the depth Florida has in the quarterback room.

Running backs
The only real note here is that Malik Davis (broken foot) looked really good and fluid in all the drills we watched Tuesday. Dameon Pierce left practice at one point with a shoulder injury but it didn’t appear to be serious.

Receivers
Jacob Copeland was absent at practice. When asked about Copeland’s status Dan Mullen said he was dealing with a hamstring strain.

The rest of the receiver group was solid. This is going to be the deepest and most experienced receiver group in some time.

Of note here is that Kyle Pitts was working with the receivers. I asked Dan Mullen after practice if that was in order to get Pitts more work on route running, footwork or with his hands and he said…

“The more flexibility you have, the harder you are to match up on. so the guys that can play running back, receiver or tight end and we can move you to all positions. Even with receivers, you can only play one receiver but if I can move you around, you create mismatch problems. So, the more flexibility you have every where on the field, the more mismatches you create.”

It’s clear that Mullen isn’t really interested in putting a label on Pitts. The sophomore, with his mix of size and speed, can be a matchup nightmare for defenses and Mullen isn’t going to limit where he can play.

Walk on receiver Erik Askeland had a really nice day. I don’t know how he gets into the offensive scheme but Askeland beat Chris Henderson with really good footwork on a dig route and then won two more reps in a row after that. He was a very good player at Satellite High School and it was nice to see the redshirt sophomore making plays in practice.

Tight ends
Lucas Krull looked good today. Expectations may have been too high for him coming into his first season. He hadn’t played football in a while and it took him some time to adjust, as it should. He’s definitely in football shape and made a couple of nice grabs Tuesday. Kemore Gamble

Linebacker
Amari Burney is ready. Burney was a player without a position for a while but he’s fitting right in at linebacker next to David Reese. There was one play in 11-on-11 where Franks moved up in the pocket and found Lamical Perine in the flat. Before Perine could even cut up field Burney had already tracked the running back down and forced him out of bounds. He’s really put on good size. Mullen has said he could play safety, star, linebacker and even cornerback but it looks like he’s found a spot to start at linebacker next to Reese.

Cornerbacks
Marco Wilson (knee) and Jaydon Hill (knee) are both limited this spring. That’s giving Chris Steele a great opportunity to prove himself.

“I don’t temper expectations. Think of this, there’s a couple corners down. You got Marco [Wilson] and Jaydon [Hill] not practicing right now, so he’s got his opportunity. He’ll get some experience, he’ll get some reps. Pretty similar what happened to Trey Dean III last year. You know, when his number was called he was ready. So, I think this is great experience for him to get extra reps this spring.”

Steele more than held his own.

Safety
Right now Jeawon Taylor and Donovan Stiner were the starting safeties. Shawn Davis was absent from practice.

John Huggins had a good day Tuesday. The sophomore was playing in the star role and some at safety. he had a few pass breakups and was in tight coverage all afternoon.

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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