Notebook: McElwain discusses last Friday’s scrimmage, O&B Debut plans

Landon Watnick, Beat Writer
Inside the Gators
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Alex Shepherd/Inside the Gators

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The Gators held their second scrimmage of the spring this past Friday in preparation for this week’s Orange and Blue Debut – and overall, Florida head coach Jim McElwain felt his team made some noticeable strides.

McElwain said he was pleased with the number of explosive plays, elimination of drops and how the Gators took care of the football, especially in the passing game. As far as how quarterbacks Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask looked, McElwain said both signal-callers “had their moments of really moving the club, and I thought that was good to see, especially down in the red area.”

“Thought Feleipe got better down there,” McElwain said. “Late on one throw, but was able to see it and get it off and get another touchdown pass, which was good to see.”

With 12 of 15 spring practices officially in the books, McElwain admitted that the quarterback battle is “starting to sort itself out." For anybody who has followed along with coverage of spring practices, it’s become clear that Franks has gained an edge in the race. In recent practices, Franks has worked with the first-team offense in the team’s 11-on-11 fastball drill during a portion open to the media, a telling sign of where things stand.

McElwain reaffirmed Monday that there has been some separation in the quarterback competition, replying to questions on the topic, “Yeah, we’re doing good. … Yeah, they’ve done a great job, and yet, I kind of expected them to.”

Meanwhile, freshman early enrollee quarterback Kadarius Toney worked with the 2’s a little bit in the scrimmage, according to McElwain, and “did some things.” McElwain added that Toney notched some explosive runs in the scrimmage working out of “his package.”

“Then obviously, they packed the box for him, made the throw down the field, so that was good to see,” McElwain said of Toney.

On defense, sophomore cornerback Chauncey Gardner and redshirt senior safety Marcell Harris were two of the standouts in last Friday’s scrimmage, according to McElwain.

“Here’s what’s been really good, I think, is Chauncey really getting full time out there at corner, where he had kind of bounced around,” McElwain said. “I think he became really comfortable, which was good to see. Marcell and the tackling department, made some open-field tackles that didn’t just try to knock him out, got him wrapped up and really kept his head up - the things we talk about. His leadership has been really, really strong throughout the spring. That’s a good thing.”

McElwain gave credit to the offensive line work’s this past Friday but noted that the Gators’ linebackers at times were inconsistent with gap control in the scrimmage.

“Just the coordination of gap control, it happens,” McElwain said. “Obviously, some of the getting re-adjusted formational shift, that kind of stuff. The communication of making sure we get the fits is all. … The good thing is those young guys, it’s like last year, we lost those two guys midway through. Vosean (Joseph) has to really step up that piece now, because David Reese is not even there. I think it’s more than anything just that constant understanding and communication, especially versus shifts, motions, unbalanced things, all that kind of stuff that teams give you that are doing that stuff. That’s why you practice.”

Overall, the 1’s and 2’s combined for 108 plays in the scrimmage, while the 3’s got in 32-33 plays, per McElwain. The Gators also avoided any injuries in the scrimmage, with the only recent new one being a pulled hamstring redshirt sophomore tight end Kalif Jackson suffered in last Wednesday’s practice.

MCELWAIN PREVIEWS THE ORANGE & BLUE DEBUT

On Friday, the Gators will hold their spring game in The Swamp, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network. Like last year, the Gators plan on turning to four 12-minute quarters for the Orange and Blue Debut.

“This week, heading into the spring game, should be a lot of fun and we’ll actually get a lot of good opponent work here the next couple of days, looking forward to that," explained McElwain. "Also, prepare for the scrimmage, which has become a made-for-television event, so we’ve got two hours, actually an hour and 57 minutes to get everything in. We’ll do our best to trip that time frame. Will probably be similar to what we did a year ago. We’ll sit down Wednesday, see how we’ll be able to split it. It will be a four quarters, 12-minute quarters again. We’ll put some situational in there."

The third-year Florida head coach said the Gators would be "fairly vanilla" in the scrimmage but they "don't need Michigan to see what we're doing different because they'll obviously be watching it."

"You know, television audience, all the things that go along with it, and we'll try to treat it as much as we can from a preparation standpoint as close to game like as we can without ... it'll be very limited," he added.

As far as how much 1's vs. 1's spectators will catch as compared to 1's vs. 2's on Friday, McElwain mentioned that the Gators have done both in the past but that the plans are still under evaluation.

"Format, we talked about, that's something we'll sit down and (discuss)," he said. "We've done them both. More than anything, it really is the depth, who you got, so you try to match them up as good as you can and let them go play."

McElwain is eager to see how his two redshirt freshmen quarterbacks perform once again in front of a live audience in a televised match-up. The topic of Franks' spring game from a year ago, where he notably threw three picks on his first four throws, came up once again Monday as McElwain discussed this year's O&B Debut.

"I'm sure he'll be excited to get out there and redo whatever he did a year ago," McElwain said. "Like I said, this is a just another piece. It's not the end-all one way or the other. Let's face it, the defense is gonna know the route combinations and the offense is gonna know the coverage shells based on rotations and that kinda stuff. So it's really not trying to trick anybody as much as let's see if we can get our second step on the ground, create some movement, win one-on-ones, those type of things.

"In Feleipe's case, make sure he knows what color jersey we're wearing because he kinda threw it to the other ones I think last year."

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