5 things Florida needs to accomplish during its spring game
Name: Orange & Blue Debut
Time: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
TV: SEC Network
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (Gainesville, Florida)
Format: Glorified Scrimmage because of lack of depth
Although Florida holds its Orange and Blue spring game Saturday, it will be more like a glorified scrimmage, namely because of the lack of depth at several positions.
The biggest emphasis this spring has been on jumpstarting the offense, something that didn’t happen under former coach Will Muschamp. First-year head coach Jim McElwain is tasked with rebuilding the team at a few positions and getting the offense clicking.
Here are five things the team needs to accomplish during its spring game:
Progression shown by quarterbacks
It’s a spring game; quarterbacks aren’t going to be great, but their development, or lack thereof, will be evident. They will take snaps under center, from the pistol and shotgun, and redshirt freshman Will Grier and sophomore Treon Harris will be under the microscope. Every Florida fan tuning into Saturday’s game will want to see the passing game and quarterbacks. Obviously, Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier aren’t going to show much of the playbook, but a crisp-looking passing game — with better timing, right reads, etc. — will be a welcomed transition. We won’t learn a great deal from the quarterbacks, but it’ll be interesting to see them under McElwain and Nussmeier. Also, backup Jacob Guy has been making a name for himself during spring practice.
Offensive line improvement
David Sharpe is the biggest player to watch here. The sophomore left tackle should be a staple this season. This group is very thin, with only six available linemen for Saturday, but the group will welcome six new signees this summer, including five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey. Sharpe and Rod Johnson are two massive keys to this group’s success, and the progression both have made during the spring will pay dividends come fall. However, Johnson will miss Saturday’s scrimmage with a shoulder injury, as will the versatile Trip Thurman.
Florida’s wide receivers have struggled in recent years to create any separation from defensive backs. Aside from Demarcus Robinson, this group needs more playmakers and better pass catchers. Running better routes will also be a welcomed sight. Whether it’s Ahmad Fullwood, CJ Worton, Valdez Showers or Latroy Pittman, the position needs another go-to player other than Robinson, who should be in for a big season. Chris Thompson and Brandon Powell will miss the spring game Saturday, two playmakers the Gators hope can contribute in 2015.
With injuries to Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis, linebackers Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian have been creating headlines this spring. Although thin at the position, the Gators are talented, and if this group can stay healthy and welcome back Morrison and Davis prior to the season, this position could be the most improved under Geoff Collins’ watch. Collins is noted for developing linebackers, and Anzalone and McMillian are two very talented — but inexperienced — linebackers. Anzalone has been making the defensive calls, and we may finally see these two blossom into the talented linebackers everyone thought. Jeremi Powell and Matt Rolin are also two others to watch Saturday.
Lastly, and most importantly, Florida’s offensive line and linebackers need to stay healthy. Neither position can suffer any more injuries or attrition heading into fall camp. The offensive line will feature only six players Saturday, much less than what Jim McElwain desires, and the Gators are also thin at linebacker. The health of these two positions is one of the biggest keys heading into fall camp.