It's spring game time in Gainesville, and while the Gators are too beat up and too short on numbers to have a traditional fun-loving spring game for the fans, new coach Jim McElwain will hold a glorified scrimmage inside the Swamp for this year's Orange & Blue Debut.
“We won't have true teams necessarily,” McElwain said. “We'll have to do just some offense against defense just because we don't have enough (players) really to have two teams out there and we're still kind of working with that.”
It might not be what fans were hoping for during McElwain's first spring in Gainesville, but they'll at least get to see what sort of progress this team has made in the last few weeks. There might not be a ton of excitement from a team still looking to find its way on offense and get comfortable with a new coaching staff, but there will be a handful of things to keep an eye on this weekend.
Here are the five biggest things to watch in Florida's spring game:
1. The quarterback battle: Florida's recent struggles at quarterback are well documented. Ever since Tim Tebow left following the 2009 season, the Gators have had zero stability at the position and have averaged no more than 185.7 passing yards per game in a single season. So everyone will be focused on the quarterback battle between sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier. Harris started the last six games of the 2014 season and threw for a little more than 1,000 yards. He made plays here and there, but was far from perfect and has a way to go with his arm ability. Grier needed to pack on some pounds last year, but has zero college experience so we won't really know what to make of him until the fall. Third-year walk-on Jacob Guy is a sleeper. He's big, athletic and has a quick release. I'm not saying he'll win the job, but he's been pushing the front-runners all spring. This battle won't be decided Saturday, but fans are just hoping for some sort of excitement and bright spots from the position.
2. The offensive line: Fans who fit the physical description of what an offensive lineman should look like are encouraged to check if they have an eligibility left. The Gators are really hurting here. Thanks to the injury bug, Florida has just six healthy scholarship linemen to work with Saturday. Six! The Gators have rotated in a few walk-ons, but this team just doesn't have enough healthy big boys up front to run a proper spring game. Still, the guys who do take the field will have to perform and show some signs of progression during a very trying spring. It's a good thing the quarterbacks can't get hit in these things.
3. Thin linebackers corps: With Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis recovering from knee injuries, Florida has had just four healthy linebackers this spring. What makes matters worse is that those four -- Alex Anzalone, Daniel McMillian, Jeremi Powell and Matt Rolin -- aren't exactly the most experienced guys when it comes to playing valuable snaps at linebacker, and Anzalone, Powell and Rolin all have dealt with injuries during their college careers. This is the thinnest position on Florida's defense, and it'll be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Geoff Collins rotates these guys around.
4. Kelvin Taylor's consistency: One thing the Gators need in order to get their passing game going is a running game they can rely on. That's where Taylor comes into play. He has the pedigree and potential, but Taylor hasn't exactly put everything together during his two years in Gainesville. Granted, he's been a backup for two years, but Taylor's talents haven't shown through on a consistent basis. Taylor, who has 1,073 rushing yards and 10 career touchdowns, has showed flashes of brilliance at times, but he has just one career 100-yard performance, has averaged just 4.7 yards per carry and has had trouble when it comes to pass blocking, making him too one-dimensional. One scrimmage isn't going to transform Taylor, but Saturday is a chance for him to take another step in his development.
5. Playmakers at receiver: Again, one spring game isn't going to make Florida's receivers elite, but an impressive showing will at least give coaches and fans some hope for the fall. Let's face it, Florida just hasn't had much to celebrate in the last few years. Yes, Demarcus Robinson was Florida's best offensive weapon last year, but he too lacked consistency. Sure, it didn't help that the people trying to get him the ball struggled, but Robinson still has a way to go when it comes to being the total package at receiver. With Brandon Powell out, Florida will have to hope for guys such as Ahmad Fulwood, Chris Thompson and Latroy Pittman to make some strides Saturday. Honestly, anyone who catches passes is on the coaches' radar in Gainesville. They'll take anyone who can stretch the field.