Monday, January 22, 2018
Colleges

Jones: It's still quarterback or bust for Florida

HOOVER, Ala. — Enough already. It's time.

Time for the Gators to find an offense. Time for the Gators to find a quarterback. Time for Florida to be in the national championship conversation again.

After all, this is Florida, doggone it.

This isn't Ole Miss. This isn't Texas A&M. Losing four games, getting smacked around in the SEC championship and going to the Citrus Bowl is supposed to be an off year.

The Gators are supposed to be better than that and now it's all up to Jim McElwain to see to it that they are. That's why he was brought into Gainesville, wasn't it?

To find a quarterback. To put the Fun 'n' Gun back into a Glum 'n' Dud offense. To restore Florida to glory.

To win national championships.

Well, as McElwain enters his third season at Florida, the time has come for the Gators to climb back to the elite level they used to be in the good ol' days. You know, when Spurrier and Urban were pacing the sidelines. When Florida's offense was running wind sprints up and down the field the way they did when Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel were slinging the ball and burning out bulbs in the scoreboard.

Times 2010

Think Gator fans are still missing having star power like Tim Tebow under center?

 

It's time for the return of the good ol' days. It's time for Florida to play like, well, Florida.

"I'm excited about this team," McElwain said Tuesday at SEC media days. "I can't wait to see what we do."

It's hard to beat up McElwain too much. He's 19-8 in his two seasons in Gainesville and that includes two SEC East titles. Not bad.

But Florida is supposed to be better than "not bad." For all the games Florida wins, it's the losses that are concerning. The Gators can't beat Alabama. They can't beat Florida State. And when was the last time you thought Florida had a legitimate shot to beat those teams?

And they won't beat them, and become true national contenders again, until they find a quarterback.

Man, that sounds odd to say. Florida and quarterbacks used to go together like Florida and sunshine. In our state, you should be able to walk down any street, throw a football in any direction and hit a good quarterback upside the head. FSU has found them. So has Miami. Even UCF and USF.

So how come it has been years — probably since Tebow in 2009 — since the Gators have had a really good quarterback?

"It's hard to say," McElwain said. "We've been snake bitten a little bit."

SEC MEDIA DAYS: Jim McElwain stays mum on Antonio Callaway's status for Michigan.

That's true. There have been injuries and suspensions and just some rotten luck. But, still, it just feels like a million years since Florida's offense has been any good.

"We're here to change that," Florida tackle Martez Ivey said.

Maybe that will change this year, although at this moment, McElwain claims he still doesn't know who his starting quarterback will be. Chances are, it's going to be Malik Zaire, the 22-year-old lefty transfer from Notre Dame. But redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, the frontrunner before Zaire entered the picture, still has a shot.

"We got some real options there," McElwain said, "and that's a good thing."

Well, good if either of them can actually play.

Monica Herndon | Times

Will Feleipe Franks one day be mentioned in the same breath as Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel?

 

"It's just going to be tremendous to see how they react," Ivey said. "Whenever we find out who that starting guy is, I just know he's going to do well."

For the past two seasons, McElwain, brought in because he's supposed know how to move the football from Point A to Extra Points, has had to win with defense. And, once again, the defense should be good.

"There's a certain level of expectation with that side of the ball," McElwain said. "Guys come here to be a part of that."

This year, however, maybe the Gators can lean on the offense. Not just because Zaire or Franks have a chance to be pretty good, but because they'll be surrounded by the most offensive talent McElwain has had at Florida.

"I'm fired up about our O-line, for the first time," McElwain said. "We're not feeling like we're reaching or trying to find somebody to plug in there. That's a group that's come the farthest since (my) first year."

SEC MEDIA DAYS: LSU coach Ed Orgeron's intensity is infectious.

The receivers, led by Antonio Callaway, are what you would expect. McElwain bragged that, "Florida speed is back."

Yeah, but is Florida back? Will this team be good? Really good?

"I think time will tell," McElwain said.

Well, it's about time.

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