The only thing better than the NFL being back is that college football is right behind it. Many schools began practices this week, including the University of Florida. The Gators took the field Thursday, as the new recruits and transfers all seemed to impress head coach Jim McElwain.
The biggest area of interest, however, is how the battle for starting quarterback is going. No one really knows what direction the Gators will go with this situation. Luke Del Rio is coming off of shoulder surgery that kept him out of the final five games of last season. Feleipe Franks (above) red-shirted his freshman year but came out with an impressive performance in Florida’s spring game. Graduate transfer Malik Zaire has raw talent that wasn’t utilized much in his time at Notre Dame.
The case can be made for Del Rio to come in and reclaim his starting job back. Though he was plagued by injuries last season, Del Rio still managed to throw for over 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns in the six games he played in. The only area of concern for him is the high amount of interceptions he threw in a small number of games.
Zaire coming in as a transfer could provide the spark the Gators offense hasn’t had since Tim Tebow was quarterback. Like Tebow, he’s a left-handed quarterback with veteran knowledge and quick feet that got McElwain’s attention in practice. He could be the safest option to start the season at quarterback until Del Rio or Franks proves they’re ready.
Speaking of Franks, he started the practice off by taking reps with the first team offense, a feat that McElwain said he earned. This only furthers the notion that Franks is not relinquishing the starting job without a fight. During the spring game, he led the Orange team to three scores in his four possessions on the field including throwing a 16-yard touchdown to Antonio Calloway.
McElwain told the media that all three quarterbacks got reps with the first team offense in different situations. By the end of practice, each had a high cumulative snap count.
It seems that the race for the starting job will be one of the most watched scenarios this offseason and the Gators are obviously entertaining the possibility of playing with multiple QBs early in the year.
With McElwain in mid-season press conference form, no one knows for sure what his true plan is at quarterback.
Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday
The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.
The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:
Coast to coast❗
🐻 at 🐊 2026
🐊 at 🐻 2027#GoGators
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 7, 2020
A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.
With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.
As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.
Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.
It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.
Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.
Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools
National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.
The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of former DB C.J. Henderson.
Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.
The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.
Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?
Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.
The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.
Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.
Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.