I didn't watch the UF spring game. It ended up a landslide as McElwain played his 1s vs 2s. He did that in 2016 as well with similar onslaught. I don't see the point of that but I'm not a highly paid college football coach. What I have below is a collection of thoughts after reading through about 8 websites/blogs that are devoted to Florida Gators stuff, along with some "2017 football season preview" stuff from non UF devoted sites.
- UF offense has sucked since McElwain/Nuss arrived. To be fair they have not had a QB. To be unfair Nuss walked on water at Bama and since leaving there has delivered his normal boring stuff at both stops. This guy is the equivalent of "Brett Favre QB coach"... making a lot of money based on being in the right place at the right time once in his career.
- UF defense has been very good, but lost a lot of talent. "Eight defensive starters lost!!" Sound familiar? That said it will be older and more experienced than UM's defense.
- Overall these teams sound VERY familiar going into the year actually - with a lot of similar holes and questions.
- UF has won 2 divisional champions in McElwain's first 2 years - so there's that. But it's sort of late Lloyd Carr or always Mark Richt stuff. 9-4 and getting outclassed when playing the top end competition. Many expect Georgia to "be back" and UF to now fall to 2nd in the division.
- Projection for the game - 2 defenses doing a lot of foiling of offenses. Two OL making fanbases sad. Some talented running backs. QB who makes less mistakes and 2-3 big plays probably wins.
- QB - Felipe Franks is the #1 right now. He played with the 1s and the backup QB played with the 2s (vs the 1s) and as could be expected Franks looked a lot better. Guy is high ceiling/low floor type of player - will wow, then do stupid things. Accuracy is a concern. But can throw a 40 yard rope over your young safety and corner. Franks seems to be the QB unless Zaire shows up in Rudock fashion this summer. Luke Del Rio seems like the backup.
- RB - in good hands. Despite an awful OL, starter Jordan Scarlett averaged 5.0 yds per carry last year which is Mike Hart like. He could be punishing behind a real OL. He should be a 1K+ type back even with sharing carries. Smith averaged 4.7 behind a superior OL last year for comparison. He has a good understudy in Lamical (!) Perine, who averaged 4.6. A 3rd guy - Mark Thompson - seems to impress everyone when he runs; the only problem is he can't protect the ball so seems destined for Ty Isaac usage.
- WR - return #1 WR Antonio Callaway with his 700 yds. Which in a normal offense would be 900 yds but since this is Nuss offense with a LOL QB was only 700 yds. Slot guy Brandon Powell is a SR and a nice "possession" type. Outside of that, UF has a normal array of "Florida WR types" who could pop if they get a QB to throw them the ball. Otherwise they will just run around a lot to no avail.
- Potential special player - Kadarius Toney aka Denard Robinson. Toney went into the spring game in the 2nd half as a "QB" but essentially a "RB who throws" - he went 3/5 for 24 yds...then ran 5 times for 74 yds. So potential wildcat, scatback, change of pace QB etc.
- OL - reading about UF 2017 OL makes me think of "something between 2015 and 2016 UM OL". 2015 OL would be the floor, 2016 OL would be the ceiling. Junior Martez Ivey is their one good guy (stronger Mason Cole), he is moving out from inside to left tackle as their left tackle is off to the NFL. They have 3 other returning starters of the Braden, Kalis variety. They feel like SO Jawaan Taylor will be a decent RT, and center seems to be RS SO TJ McCoy. So they have experience - but a bunch of meh in their history. Then they need to fill the guard spots - they have experienced meh choices or could go young. So not unlike us entering 2016 with 3 established starters and looking for a LT and guard. (New OL coach by the way)
- TE -They have a senior there named Goolsby. 3rd on the team last year with 38 catches, 342 yds (Butt comparables = 46 for 546)
- Pep/Drevno >>>> Nuss. Borges v Nuss? Tough one man.
This was McElwein's quote about the OL post spring
“I thought they did okay. Disappointed with a couple guys that didn’t compete. We got kind of after them at half time a little bit about competing. Sure enough, they came out in that second half and did a much better job.”
Overall it smells a lot like UM's offense. Playmakers are out there at the skill positions. Can the QB deliver? Can the OL keep QB upright. UF has more experience coming back esp at WR, and OL but we are probably going to say that relative to all 12 opponents we face this year in the regular season (and the opponent in the BT championship game, and 2 playoff games - woo hoo)
- DL - Lost some very good talent in the interior of the line but they seem happy with what they have back. They also seem happy about the defensive ends - top 4 guys... Antonneous Clayton, Jabari Zuniga (started uber hot last year before cooling), Luke Ancrum and CeCe Jefferson.
Antonneous Clayton, Jabari Zuniga, and Luke Ancrum recorded one sack apiece. Clayton had a chance to tack on a couple more but was held back by spring game rules. He was in the backfield all night long. Cece Jefferson, the most experienced of the defensive ends, tied Joseph for the Orange team-high three tackles with 1.5 tackles for a loss.
- Carbon copy of UM - with losses to the NFL (Anzalone, Davis) they are about 3 deep they feel good about and then they are counting on youngins to flash. One young guy they got very excited about is RS FR Jeremiah Moon. Vosean Joseph also impressed. SO David Reese (wrist) didn't play in the spring game but will be a contributor. So they are excited about these guys in the way we are about Hudson and Bush.
“Jeremiah Moon? Pshhh, the guy’s athletic,” said sophomore defensive back Chauncey Gardner. “He’s a freak. Last year we didn’t see it because of the injury, but this year Jeremiah is definitely gonna be a factor. He’s a great player. He can cover, he can also come off the edge and he can also get off blocks. That’s the key playing in the SEC.”
- DB - Again sounds familiar; a very loaded 2016 defense saw a lot of people depart to the NFL. "3 of 4 starters gone" But their understudies are older guys unlike the fresh faces UM is rolling out. Certainly much more experience back there than UM will have. At corner Tabor and Quincy Wilson depart, senior Duke Dawson & SO Chauncy Gardner Jr replace them. Both projected safeties are 5th year seniors - so maybe they are boring in a Jarrod Wilson way but as we say here, boring safeties can be a good thing. They are adding 6 freshman 'crootz so you imagine 1-2 will be involved in the 2 deep by fall.
Tough to tell who is better on paper on defense, especially with almost the entire UM 2 deep rarely being tested in a real game. Both teams feel like top 20 types when all is said and done. UM might be a bit more thin (i.e. DT) but that shouldn't come into play in game 1.
- They are very excited about their support staff.
- They don't rebuild, they just reload.
One thing I did not know regarding Zaire:
The Gators are currently prohibited from taking a grad transfer because of an SEC restriction stemming from 2 previous Florida grad transfers falling short of academic requirements. The SEC could yet soften that rule, though no change is expected before the SEC spring meetings in a month and a half.