The Gators hired Quarterback Whisperer, Dan Mullen, and it appears that he has his work cut out for him. UF has been unsettled at the QB position for the better part of a decade. The three current contenders are Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask, and Emory Jones. Franks has the most extensive experience of the trio in live game action. Unfortunately, experience doesn’t necessarily correlate with proficiency. Franks looks the part and has a big arm, but he hasn’t shown much command of the previous regime’s office, nor has he excelled in the new one. The Gainesville Sun charted Feleipe Franks at 7-of-22 passing with three interceptions in a recent spring scrimmage. The most effective QB on the roster this spring was also the least likely candidate at the beginning of spring ball. Kyle Trask has a strong arm and plenty of raw ability. According to sources in Gainesville, he completed 12 of 18 passes for 182 yards, 3 TDs & 1 INT in that same scrimmage. Trask was sidelined right before the 2017 season opener as he required ankle surgery and he missed the entire season. If I had to place my bet on who opens the 2018 season, I’d have to back Trask. The player with the highest upside also has the least experience. Emory Jones was a cornerstone of Dan Mullen’s first recruiting class. He is a true dual-threat that appears tailor-made to run this offense. His high school football experience likely isn’t helping his cause here as he played at a small school in rural Georgia. He got plenty of reps at all-star camps, but this is a pretty big transition to make in just a few short months. Jones is the QB of the future, in my opinion, but the early returns have shown he’s still green and may not be ready to lead a team through the rigors of SEC play. I’m really looking forward to watching this group in the scrimmage.
While there are plenty of questions at QB, the questions at RB are of a much different nature. It is, how are they going to incorporate all of this talent? I’m a big proponent of the notion that you can never have too many RBs. That hypothesis will be put to the test this fall as there are more than a handful of very talented backs on this roster. This group consists of Jordan Scarlett, Malik Davis, Lamical Perine, Adarius Lemons, and highly-regarded true freshmen Dameon Pierce. Davis may be the most dynamic and explosive runner of the bunch but he wrecked his knee last season, and there are rumblings that he may take a redshirt in 2018. One of the reasons that Lamical Perine got some run last season was due to the suspension of Jordan Scarlett. Scarlett showed tremendous potential in 2016 but was suspended for the entirety of the 2017 season after facing felony fraud charges. If you want to see what he looked like at his peak, check out this cut-up against LSU. Like Scarlett, Perine runs with power and determination, but he doesn’t possess the same God-given ability as his predecessor. Speaking of power backs, true freshman Dameon Pierce didn’t shy away from contact in his high school career. Pierce is one of the most impressive incoming freshman running backs, and I think he will have an immediate opportunity to push Perine for a little real estate in this backfield. If Davis does indeed redshirt, Adarius Lemons will likely be the change of pace back that Florida uses. There have been multiple reports and clips of Lemons showing nice burst and agility in the open field this spring. In recent years, Mullen hasn’t enjoyed these types of players at RB. As such, in the past five years, his RB with the most carries has only managed 236, 137, 92, 190, and 137 totes in a season. When you factor in the amount of depth that the Gators currently have, I think this could end up an RBBC (running back by committee) approach. If I had to guess, Jordan Scarlett finishes the season with the most carries. In addition to that, the OL doesn’t have much top end talent past Martez Ivey, that I’m aware of.
While we officially transition to WRs now, I considered giving Kadarius Toney his own paragraph. Who knows, maybe I will? Toney was a true freshman last season that enrolled as a dual-threat QB. He actually got a good bit of work at QB in last year’s spring game. Florida was in desperate need of dynamic players last season, and Toney agreed to play some WR in addition to wildcat QB. Dan Mullen recently had this to say about him to SEC Country, “His future is as a wide receiver, obviously. If he wants to play football for a living, it’s going to be as a wide receiver. So he’s got to learn fundamentally how to be a really good wide receiver. Very similar to a Percy Harvin.” In fairness, be prepared to hear Mullen pitch every explosive athlete similarly over the next few years. If he continues to hone his craft as a WR, perhaps there will soon be a changing of the guard from Harvin to Toney on Mullen’s powerpoint presentations. I’m glad he ended up with his own paragraph.
Kadarius Toney is a playmaker
Touchdown Gators!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/YRDNd2kCCb
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) September 24, 2017
As for the rest of the WRs, there is now a (welcomed) surplus of talent. Tyrie Cleveland is a promising athlete that has been frustratingly inconsistent. He scored a 98-yard touchdown against LSU in 2016 and then was held below 20 receiving yards in six games during the 2017 season. I’m willing to acknowledge much of his ghosting could be due to poor QB play, but a player with elite athleticism needs to be better. This is a big year for a player that is owned in most Devy leagues. The most welcomed addition to the Gators WR room is Ole Miss transfer, Van Jefferson. Jefferson showed promise as a young player in Oxford, but it was unlikely he was going to usurp the bevy of talent for significant market share at Ole Miss. He is a hard worker, good athlete, and intelligent player as a coach’s son. I am optimistic about Jefferson’s CFF impact in 2018 and the potential emergence of Devy value as a result. This is a neat excerpt from Saturdaydownsouth.com on Mullen’s offense:
“While Mullen’s offense retains some passing concepts (especially vertically), the heart of it is a zone and power run game rooted in horizontal deception. Florida will use three, four and five wide receiver sets to spread the defense out sideline to sideline, only to use outside receivers primarily as blockers or vertical route runners while using inside receivers as either functional running backs who see their action on the perimeter or flex option receivers who can set the edge on power runs or be flexed out to offer a wide super mobile blocking option. Conceptually, the idea is to have a variety of runs available in any given formation, with complimentary play calls available to punish defenses that overplay a base run.”
As such, a guy like Kadarius Toney could rack up tons of catches and use his open field run ability to win while guys like Cleveland and Jefferson could be field-stretchers that take advantage of single coverages. Players like Freddie Swain, Trevon Grimes, and Josh Hammond will be fighting for a role. Trevon Grimes is a 6’4” and 200-pound transfer from Ohio State. He recently posted a 5-153-1 stat line in a scrimmage. I have a good feeling about him this season, and he’s a guy I’ll be keeping close tabs on for CFF and Devy purposes.
Florida has a very promising group at TE. Cyontai Lewis and Moral Stephens are the OGs of the group. Neither have been very productive in the past but will have an opportunity to be productive this season. Lewis recently tweeted something to the effect of he’s caught more passes this spring than he has his whole career at UF up to this point. Kemore Gamble is a player that I’ve very excited about. According to WRUF, “UF’s TE Coach, Larry Scott has admitted that he’s still “a little bit inconsistent.” He’s a young tight end who’s really starting to learn the game, but Scott sees a lot of potential in him. Gamble learned a lot from his redshirt season and is now learning all the nuances of being a complete tight end. Scott says he can be a “total package [tight end] and not just a flex guy.” Newcomers Kyle Pitts and Dante Lang bring additional depth the position. I haven’t seen Lang play, but Pitts was one of the most impressive TEs I watched of this incoming class. This is an excerpt from SEC Country that outlines how TE’s have fared under Mullen:
“Playing for Mullen and most of Florida’s new offensive coaching staff last season at Mississippi State, Bulldogs tight end Jordan Thomas finished with 22 catches for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns while Farrod Green had 9 catches for 174 yards.
Mullen’s most productive tight end during his time in Starkville, Miss., was Malcolm Johnson, who had 30 receptions for 391 yards and two touchdowns in 2013 and 28 catches for 380 yards and three scores in 2014. And, of course, Mullen was the offensive coordinator at Florida in 2008 when since-disgraced tight end Aaron Hernandez caught 34 passes for 381 yards and five touchdowns (before doubling that production the next season, post-Mullen, with 68 catches for 850 yards and five touchdowns).”
I believe there will be CFF relevance from this group and my instinct tells me it will come from Cyontai Lewis or Kemore Gamble in 2018.
The good news for the team is that the defense should be good enough to help the offense come along. I know no (ZERO) Gator fans want to hear that noise anymore, but it’s still the case. Todd Grantham takes over as the DC, and they will switch to a base 3-4. There are few coaches better at making an immediate impact on a defense than Grantham. There is NFL talent up and down this defense. The DL boasts tons of talent and depth but is headlined by CeCe Jefferson (hybrid) and Jabari Zuniga. Antonneous Clayton, TJ Slayton, and Zachary Carter all have potential to be difference makers. LB Vosean Joseph is one of the most athletic and violent defenders in college football, but he has been wildly inconsistent. LB Rayshad Jackson and David Reese have been praised for his play thus far. Overall, the LB group is the weakest of the three levels of the defense, in my opinion. The secondary is loaded with next-level players – it always is. The safety that I like most is the enforcer, Jeawon Taylor. He’s been knicked up this spring, but he’s a heck of a player when healthy. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has actually been able to move to nickel which seems to be a more natural fit for the talented vet and allows them to get their 11 best players on the field. The real show stoppers are the two TrSO Corners, Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson. These two make up one of the best CB tandems in college football, and they are both underclassmen. Enjoy these two and if you play Devy IDP, roster em.
Marco Wilson || “Freshman Duo” || Cj Henderson ???? pic.twitter.com/BOrDo1Wrfx
— WeAreDBnation (@WeAreDBNation1) January 2, 2018
Few more of Wilson:
— UF365 (@UF365) August 6, 2016
— Gators Recruiting (@GatorNews4U) August 7, 2017