University of Florida

At the Orange and Blue game, Gators coach Dan Mullen wants to see this in his players

Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen.
Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen. TNS

Florida coach Dan Mullen knows what he wants to see at the Gators’ upcoming Orange and Blue game.

He’s already seen plenty in spring camp so far. Guys who have spent a year in his system have shown confidence. Players who don’t yet know the system have shown a willingness to learn. And veterans have emerged as vocal leaders to help guide the ones who arrived just months ago.

When the Gators suit up for their annual spring game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m., there’s one more thing the second-year Florida coach will look for.

“You’re hoping to see a foundation of guys who are ready to go play,” Mullen said. “Obviously you already feel good about a bunch. You probably felt pretty good about a bunch of guys before we even started spring practice, that they’ve played a bunch of football.

“You hope though that they are continuing to make improvements. For us, the biggest thing is we’ve got to continue to build depth, so hopefully we add some more guys that we feel comfortable that are ready to play.”

Quarterback Feleipe Franks is one of those guys whose development and confidence has been clear in his second spring under Mullen.

And with second-year quarterback Emory Jones struggling as a passer during spring camp and Kyle Trask still a bit of a question mark, Franks is a clear frontrunner for the starting job in the upcoming season.

“I feel like I’ve gotten better with accuracy, giving the receivers a chance to make a play on the ball,” Franks said after UF’s first spring scrimmage, “not overthrowing and throwing the ball out of bounds, always just giving them a 50/50 chance. Because we’ve got a really good receiving corps. We’re gonna win those type of balls 80 percent of the time.”

UF’s veteran receiving corps — made up of the speedy Tyrie Cleveland, the 6-5, 210-pound Trevon Grimes and other playmakers like Van Jefferson and Freddie Swain — has shown its depth during spring camp.

That experience has been met with a young offensive line that will rely on mostly freshmen, as just one starter from a year ago will return in 2019.

“You gotta learn how to balance it,” Franks said. “Coach Hevesy is gonna get everybody right and the receivers as well. You just gotta learn how to balance it. That’s one of the most important things.”

Despite the growing pains the young group has experienced, Mullen said he’s thankful for the offensive line early enrollees.

“I don’t know how we’d practice,” he said. “If we didn’t have those guys, the spring game format would probably be more 7-on-7. I don’t know if we’d play with linemen.”

Michael Tarquin, William Harrod, Ethan White and Kingsley Eguakun all arrived at UF at the beginning of the spring semester, and Mullen said he’s pleased with their development.

“I think those young linemen have really bought into the program, and bought into, like to me, they’ve bought into football … Even though it’s a little nerve wracking now, it could be pretty good a couple years down the road when the same guys are still out there.”

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