Florida Gators Spring Practice Preview: 3 Storylines To Watch

    Florida Gators spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to watch when the Gators hit the field on February 28.

    February 26, 2017

    Florida Gators spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to watch when the Gators hit the field on February 28.

    Florida is coming off back-to-back SEC East titles and a blowout bowl win over Iowa, so Gator Nation is happy, right? Think again. While the defense has been top notch and led the Gators to 19 wins in head coach Jim McElwain’s first two seasons in Gainesville, the offense has been abysmal, especially at quarterback, for the majority of his tenure.

    To once again become a national title contender, where Florida feels like it belongs, and get over the hump in the SEC title game – UF has lost by a combined score of 83-31 to Alabama the past two seasons – the Gators will have to answer a few questions during spring practice, including at the ever-important quarterback position.

    Here are three storylines to watch as Florida starts spring practice.

    Florida Gators Spring Practice Storylines

    1. Wanted: Effective Quarterback

    It has been quite some time since Florida had a quarterback that was both a deep threat and accurate with the short-yardage throws, and needless to say, that is pretty important for an offense. Luke Del Rio wasn’t the answer, and neither was Austin Appleby, as both saw time under center during the 2016 season.

    [RELATED: Jim McElwain Previews Florida Gators Spring Practice]

    Enter Feleipe Franks, the former 4-star recruit who spent his redshirt year learning the system. He must win the job first, though. Del Rio is out for spring practice, meaning the main competition will be between Franks and fellow redshirt freshman Kyle Trask.

    The receivers, a strength of the team now, will be there – Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland are both back – and the running back position has plenty of talent.

    Now, the Gators just need someone to grab the reins at quarterback. Some consistency at the position would go a long ways toward turning the offense around.

    2. Continued Growth of Offensive Line

    Four out of the five offensive linemen that started in the Outback Bowl win against Iowa – Martez Ivey, T.J. McCoy, Fred Johnson, and Jawaan Taylor – are back. David Sharpe is the lone departure, having left early for the NFL. That means experience will be a key asset for the Gators up front, but this offensive line is still relatively young.

    Who will fill in at left tackle for the departed Sharpe? Look for Kavaris Harkless, unless Ivey slides out from the guard position or Taylor moves to the left side of the line.

    Florida had trouble running the ball last season, finishing 113th in the nation, averaging just 128.23 yards per game. Granted the Gators were No. 97 in the nation in rushing attempts with only 452. Part of that had to do with the lack of quarterback play and opposing defenses being able to completely sell out on the run, but this offensive line must gel so backs such as Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson can find holes and establish the ground game.

    3. Finding New Defensive Playmakers

    Gone are secondary mainstays Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson. Stud linebackers Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone have also left Gainesville, along with linemen Joey Ivie and Caleb Brantley. The cabinet is hardly empty, though, as the Gators still have a plethora of talent on the defensive side of the ball, specifically in the secondary.

    Chauncey Gardner, Nick Washington and Marcell Harris will all find time at safety, and Duke Dawson will be one of the top cornerbacks as new position coach Corey Bell tries to keep up Florida’s DBU tradition.

    Cece Jefferson, Jabari Zuniga and Keivonnis Davis bring experience up front, with the pair combining for 9.5 tackles for a loss last season and three total sacks.

    At linebacker, look for David Reese, Kylan Johnson and Vosean Joseph to take the next steps in their development.

    MORE: SEC Football Predictions For 2017 Season


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