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Florida Football: Gators' 2019 Spring Preview

Florida Football: Gators' 2019 Spring Preview

Florida Football: Gators' 2019 Spring Preview

There's a ton of optimism in Gainesville these days with the Florida Gators coming off of their first 10-win season since 2015. Now that Florida's spring practice has begun, the team will hope this is the start of the path that will lead the Gators back to the top of the SEC East.

But until the Aug. 24 season opener against Miami in Orlando, there are several questions that will need to be addressed. Head coach Dan Mullen has done an excellent job recruiting since returning to Gainesville in late November 2017, and he'll need some of his younger players to step up as several key contributors opted to leave early for the NFL draft.

5 Storylines to Watch During Florida's Spring Practice

1. Can Feleipe Franks continue to hold on to the starting quarterback job?

Throughout his time with the Gators, Franks has been a bit of an enigma. Last year, he performed well in games against Florida State and Michigan. However, in games against Georgia and Missouri, Franks was less than impressive and ended up getting benched.

Kyle Trask and Emony Jones will both try to dethrone Franks for the top spot on the quarterback depth chart. If Trask didn't suffer a season-ending foot injury before the game against South Carolina, there's a good chance he would have started that game.

For now, it appears that this is still Franks' job to lose. But he has been known to be inconsistent throughout his career so his progress and that of his teammates is something to keep an eye on.

2. Who will start at right tackle?

Jawaan Taylor started 12 games at right tackle for the Gators last season. He then decided to decalre for the draft a year early, opening up a large hole that Dan Mullen will need to plug.

Former Texas transfer Jean Delance or rising redshirt senior Noah Banks are the front-runners for the job. Delance played in four games a season ago after sitting out 2017 following his transfer. Banks is versatile as he can play at a number of positions on the offensive line and played in all 12 games in his first season with the Gators following his transfer from Iowa Western College.

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3. Tight end

This is one of the positions that is up for grabs as the Gators were hit hard by players graduating. Kemore Gamble, who played mainly on special teams, could be the top contender to take over at the spot. A former four-star recruit, Gamble recorded seven catches for 58 yards in 2018.

Lucas Krull and Dante Lang also should see plenty of reps throughout the spring.

4. Who will replace Jachai Polite's production?

Although it was expected Polite would enter the 2019 NFL Draft, it is still a significant loss for the Gators' defense. Especially when you compound that with fellow lineman Cece Jefferson's graduation.

Adding to the challenge for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is the fact that junior Jeremiah Moon, who was expected to be the leading candidate to replace Polite, will miss all of spring practice due to a broken foot. In Moon's absence, Louisville transfer Jonathan Greenard, redshirt freshman Andrew Chatfield, and true freshman Mohamoud Diabate will all compete for playing time at the hybrid defensive end/linebacker position that Polite and Jefferson manned.

5. Can anyone become the new Chauncey Gardner-Johnson?

Gardner-Johnson was arguably the biggest playmaker on the Gators' defense last season. Another early draft departure, Grantham needs to identify a new anchor in the secondary that can get the job done in pass coverage and not be a liability against the run.

Trey Dean figures to get plenty of opportunity to stake his claim to Gardner-Johnson's former spot. After Marco Wilson sustained a season-ending injury against Kentucky, Dean started nine of the final 10 games. He finished the season with 26 tackles, an interception and six pass breakups.

True freshmen cornerbacks Chris Steele and Jaydon Hill also will likely receive reps at the STAR position as well.

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.