kadarius toney

The first play of the Gators' Orange and Blue game Saturday was a double-reverse pass from receiver Kadarius Toney (pictured) to quarterback Feleipe Franks for a 40-yard gain.

 

If you looked away from your TV screen for more than five seconds during Florida’s annual Orange and Blue game on Saturday, then guess what?

You probably missed a deep touchdown pass.

It was a big day for the Florida quarterbacks. Both teams combined for 762 passing yards in the highest-scoring UF spring game of all time.

And it all went according to plan for head coach Dan Mullen.

“We let today be more of a celebration, where (the players) can have fun in front of their friends and family and all of our fans,” he said after the game.

The spring game matters. An exciting exhibition can energize the fan base and surround the program with momentum heading into the long summer break.

But it’s important that fans take the spring game for what it is: a show.

And Mullen put on quite the show.

The Gators opened the game with a trick play — a double-reverse pass from receiver Kadarius Toney to quarterback Feleipe Franks for a 40-yard gain.

Franks looked like the quarterback we saw in the final four games of the season. He appeared confident and competent, going 13 of 18 for 327 yards and four touchdowns. His only “mistake” came on a scripted pick-six play for former Florida defensive back Lito Sheppard.

And that’s just it. Most of the game was scripted.

Yeah, Florida’s secondary got torched. But that’s what Mullen wanted.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, in all likelihood, allowed the offense to have the success it did.

Sure, he could have brought the heat. But neither team’s offensive line was fully comprised of first-team guys. Offensive line depth is a legitimate concern right now, but there’s no reason the fans needed to see that in the spring game.

Mullen’s predecessors didn’t exactly get it. Under Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain, the spring game was a dry affair. It was basically a glorified practice.

Mullen, on the other hand, seems to see the value of fan service.

So, what can fans take away from the game?

Franks is the starter. That much is clear.

There’s an entire slate of fall practices between now and the season opener against Miami on Aug. 24. So in theory, that could change.

It’s highly unlikely, though. Franks got the most reps of any quarterback. Redshirt junior Kyle Trask and redshirt freshman Emory Jones looked solid, but neither of them were as poised as Franks.

Receiver Trevon Grimes looked much improved. Franks’ favorite target on Saturday had a spring-game record 195 yards on only four catches. Two of those were touchdowns.

Fans should be cautiously optimistic. Florida returns a ton of offensive talent, especially at skill positions. The running back and receiver rooms are absolutely loaded, and the offense looked comfortable in the system.

But fans shouldn’t live and die by what they saw in a scrimmage. That goes for other teams, as well.

Redshirt junior Tate Martell, the favorite to win the quarterback job at UM, reportedly struggled in his spring game. His performance likely dropped him behind redshirt freshman Jarren Williams and redshirt sophomore N’Kosi Perry.

But there’s a lot of time to improve between now and August. Martell could be a completely different player when he suits up against UF this fall.

If you’re reading this and think I’m being negative, I’m not. An exciting spring game is certainly better than the alternative.

It’s just important to temper expectations and realize that what we saw during a heavily curated spring game might not be indicative of how good the team actually is.

Tyler Nettuno is a sports writer for the Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @TylerNettuno or contact him at [email protected].

Tyler Nettuno is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida men's basketball team. He has previously covered UF golf and lacrosse. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.