Wondering about freshman quarterbacks under Jim McElwain? Meet Rob Compson
If history is the best indication of the future, then one of the most important characters for the Florida Gators' game Saturday against South Carolina involves a stiff quarterback you've never heard of from Montana State.
Hang with me.
UF coach Jim McElwain has no problem burning a quarterback's redshirt with three games left in the regular season. That means Kyle Trask or Feleipe Franks could start this week against the Gamecocks, with starter Luke Del Rio (shoulder) out.
On Monday, McElwain said he's played a freshman this late in a year before, back when he was at Montana State.
That brings us to Rob Compson.
I wrote about Rob a little bit last August, as McElwain began his first season with the Gators. McElwain's comparison is a little fuzzy; Compson had already redshirted when he made his college debut.
Anyway, when I spoke to Compson last year, he told me the story of his first start, which has some similarities to what's going on this week. Compson was the scout-team quarterback when the starter got hurt. He put himself in the competition, then moved up quickly. He got his first start with three games left in the season. Sound familiar?
As Compson prepared for his debut, he said McElwain spent more time in the office with him than he did at home.
"A lot of film work, going over the plays," Compson told me last summer. "He definitely made sure if I wasn't comfortable or confident in a play, it wasn't in the script."
That could be key Saturday, if Franks or Trask starts. They have different strengths than Austin Appleby, who has different strengths than Del Rio.
McElwain said there are some things he can do to help ease a freshman quarterback in. He can simplify the reads and move the throwing lanes. But finding the right plays for the first-time starter would be pivotal in establishing his confidence.
Like Trask and Franks, Compson had no experience in a college game, so McElwain compared it to some of the high school games he played in. That helped calm Compson.
"He's not going to give up on you," Compson said. "He's going to work with you until you understand it."
UF fans should hope Trask or Franks fares better than Compson did. He threw for 70 yards that day, according to the Missoulian. But his career turned out OK - he left as the school's all-time leader in touchdown passes.