GAINESVILLE — For the first time since November 2017, Florida will start a quarterback other than Feleipe Franks.
Longtime backup Kyle Trask and redshirt freshman Emory Jones are expected to share time Saturday when the No. 9 Gators host Tennessee, and there’s a lot we don’t know about how they’ll fare or how they’ll split snaps. But here are 11 things we do know about the Gators’ quarterbacks:
1. Assuming Trask takes the first snap, it will be the redshirt junior’s first start since he was on the Freshman A team at Texas’ Manvel High. He backed up current Houston star D’Eriq King for the rest of his high school career before signing with UF in 2016.
2. As talented as Trask and King are, neither was the top athlete at Manvel High. That honor belonged to basketball star Brianna Turner, Gatorade’s national high school player of the year in 2013-14. Turner helped Notre Dame make a pair of Women’s Final Four appearances at Amalie Arena and was on the WNBA’s all-rookie team this year for the Phoenix Mercury.
3. Here’s how rare Trask’s loyalty is: Since 2012, UF’s Tyler Murphy is the only other quarterback at one of the state’s big three programs to wait until his redshirt junior year to make his first career start.
4. Franks and Trask are similar enough that UF doesn’t intend to make any major changes to its offense. That fits what Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt saw after breaking down the Kentucky game. “I didn’t see any changes from a philosophical standpoint,” Pruitt said. “They continue to do what they do.”
5. Trask doesn’t have Franks’ arm strength, but receiver Josh Hammond said he’s more decisive with his throws. “Kyle is more of a gunslinger guy than Feleipe is because Feleipe will tuck it and run when he needs to,” Hammond said.
6. Jones is the best runner of the three, which is why coach Dan Mullen gave him meaningful snaps last year in special packages against Georgia and Michigan. Another reason: To get him ready for games like this. “(Mullen) said his reasoning was so I can step on any stage right now and be prepared, be ready,” Jones said in July. “I’ll never be afraid or anything like that.”
7. All 20 of Jones’ 20 career passes have been in mop-up duty, but he did make a fourth-quarter throw against Georgia that didn’t count because of a pass interference. Even though that deep ball to Van Jefferson fell incomplete, Jefferson was still raving about the pass and the poise of the passer afterward. “I feel like he's going to lead this program to a national championship in time,” Jefferson said a few days later.
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8. Mullen apparently doesn’t believe in the old adage that if you’ve got two quarterbacks, you don’t have one. He was UF’s offensive coordinator for the Chris Leak-Tim Tebow duo in 2006 and doesn’t have major concerns about how sharing reps will affect egos or rhythms. “The key is that everybody knows what's going on,” Mullen said.
9. With only two healthy scholarship quarterbacks available, UF’s No. 3 option would likely be Nick Sproles, a redshirt junior from Winter Park. His only career pass came in last year’s rout at Florida State.
10. Trask (or Jones) will be the 13th different Gator to start at quarterback in the nine-plus seasons since Tim Tebow left. The other 12: John Brantley, Jacoby Brissett, Trey Burton, Jeff Driskel, Will Grier, Treon Harris, Skyler Mornhinweg, Tyler Murphy, Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby, Malik Zaire and Franks.
11. Why 11 things to know? Because Trask was given the No. 11 jersey when he arrived at UF and kept it. The last UF starting quarterback to wear No. 11? Steve Spurrier.