Florida Gators 2014 spring game: Orange & Blue Debut will feature drafted teams

USA TODAY Sports

Florida's going to have team captains picking players for its spring game. Is this a good idea?

Eagle-eyed Twitter user Charles Woodbury spotted something important yesterday, when the YouTube account run by Florida's athletic department uploaded a live stream titled "2014 Orange & Blue Debut Selection Show" that was set to air at 7 p.m. on Thursday. It looked like the sort of thing one puts up in advance of a fantasy draft of a spring game.

That's because it was: That stream will broadcast the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut Selection Show at 7 p.m. tonight, and we're going to have the first Florida spring game with rosters picked by team captains in my memory on Saturday.

In advance of Saturday’s Orange & Blue Debut, presented by Sunniland, the Florida football program will hold a Selection Show on Thursday night at 7 p.m. The show will air live online via YouTube.

Larry Vettel, who will be calling the action on Saturday with Nat Moore and Jessica Blaylock, will be hosting the show. Joining him on Thursday night’s show will be two honorary captains making the selections each team. Representing the Orange Team will be former quarterback Shane Matthews and former safety Josh Evans. The Blue Team will be chosen by former wide receiver Chris Doering and former linebacker Jelani Jenkins.

On one hand, okay, cool, whatever: This is a neat idea and gins up some extra interest in the spring game. I didn't watch one nanosecond of the 2014 Pro Bowl, but I watched almost the entirety of the 2014 Pro Bowl Draft, because I thought it was an interesting thing that showcased players' personalities. If Florida has its players in the room and reacting to being selected, this has the potential to be a lot of fun.

But just last week, as Adam Silverstein of Only Gators noted, Will Muschamp was noting his preference for traditional spring games.

"I want good on good," Muschamp said. "I want to see the best players going against the best players and being able to as a staff match up guys that we know we need to find out things about."

That means the No. 1 offense working against the No. 1 defense and vice versa.

And Muschamp's got a pretty good point: It helps Demarcus Robinson and Vernon Hargreaves III more to go against each other than it helps either to go against lesser players, and "good on good" practicing is most coaches' preferred method of improving their teams.

That's totally possible even within the framework of a fantasy draft, especially if the Orange Team and the Blue Team are given a script of picks to make, but that's going to be either really obvious — if Orange picks Jeff Driskel, Kelvin Taylor, and Quinton Dunbar with its first three picks, while Blue takes Hargreaves, Dante Fowler, Jr., and Jarrad Davis, we'll know — or done in a way that slights Florida's second-teamers. If both teams build their rosters position by position, that would create a clear stratification between starters and backups.

A fantasy draft makes more sense for an all-star game because they're all all-stars, and the last player taken is still better than anyone not there. That aspect of what made the Pro Bowl Draft so compelling can be damaging — or motivating, to be fair — in a locker room featuring one team that will play non-exhibition games.

So I'll be watching with interest tonight, and we'll definitely have a live stream for the whole thing here — the wonder of hosting things on YouTube! But I'm not watching it without being a bit skeptical of the endeavor.

Update: A Florida spokesman informed me, following publication of this article, that the draft is "designed as entertainment." That makes me think this is less deviation from normalcy, and more fanfare for what would have otherwise happened behind closed doors. Breathe easy.

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